Citizens' Issues
1 soldier dies every month in Siachen
With the death of Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad and nine of his comrades, India has lost nearly one soldier every month due to avalanches or extreme climatic conditions in the Siachen Glacier, since first sending troops to the contested Himalayan area 32 years ago to counter the Pakistani Army.
 
Overall, 869 Indian troops died serving at the Glacier between 1984 and December 2015, according to data presented in the Lok Sabha. The death of 10 soldiers of the Madras regiment on February 3, 2016 – buried under an avalanche that struck their post at an altitude of 20,500 feet – and three others this year brings India’s Siachen casualties to 883.
 
The toll includes 33 officers, 54 junior commissioned officers and 782 other ranks.
 
The number of troops killed in Siachen has declined steadily, from 24 in 2011 to 5 in 2015, according to Lok Sabha data. All of these are a result of avalanches or extreme climatic conditions, not enemy fire. The deaths this year were from avalanches.
 
India has spent Rs. 6,566 ($4.5 billion) crore between 2012-13 and 2014-15 on clothing and mountaineering equipment – much of it imported – for soldiers at Siachen.
 
The world’s highest battlefield – but the battle is mostly with the weather
 
The Siachen glacier, situated in a Himalayan region astride the India-Pakistan border, holds the dubious distinction of being the world’s highest battlefield.
 
Siachen’s forbidding conditions have claimed the lives of many Pakistani soldiers as well. Most recently, in 2012, an avalanche hit a Pakistani army camp at the strategically important Gayari sector killing 140 people, including 129 soldiers.
 
Altitudes reach as high as 22,000 feet (The top of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, is at 29,000 ft) and temperatures dip below -45 degrees C.
 
Oxygen levels are low, and soldiers are prone to suffer from memory loss, blurred speech, frost bite, lung infection and severe depression. They also deal with the dangers of crevasses (long cracks or fractures in ice surface), especially during the summer months.
 
Transporting the most basic supplies in these conditions is an arduous task, with some posts accessible only by helicopters. A few posts use pulleys to hoist supplies up the mountainside.
 
During winter, when land routes close, ageing, light Cheetah helicopters are the only means of food and ammunition supplies and emergency evacuations.
 
Nearly 3,000-4,000 Indian troops from three battalions serve year round. Each battalion spends up to three months on the Glacier after acclimatization.
 
The high monetary and human costs of deployment, have prompted calls for the Glacier’s demilitarisation. However, mistrust between India and Pakistan has prevented that.
 
“The decision on Siachen is based on the security of the nation”, said Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar recently. “I am disturbed by the loss of life, but I think that due to this, some other solution (withdrawal) would not be the proper analysis.”
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Headley confirms plans to target Bal Thackeray
Mumbai : Pakistani-American terrorist-turned-approver David Coleman Headley on Friday said he had recced Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar West in Mumbai with the intention to target the building and the then party supremo Bal Thackeray.
 
He said he developed close links with Rajaram Rege, who was the public relations officer to Bal Thackeray's son Uddhav, now the Shiv Sena chief, and visited the Bhavan twice.
 
"I took videos of the Shiv Sena Bhavan from outside and inside... I thought the LeT would be interested in attacking it or even carry assassination of its head (Bal Thackeray)... I provided two-three videos to Sajid Mir and Major Iqbal," Headley told Special TADA Court Judge G.A. Sanap.
 
Later, through a person named Vilas he met actor Rahul Bhatt, son of veteran film-maker Mahesh Bhatt based in Mumbai, Headley said.
 
He met Rahul Bhatt during a body-building competition at the Moksha Gym, of which Vilas was in-charge.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Allow social security schemes for employees to survive post retirement
If the government intends to remove the mandatory 12% PF contribution, then it must introduce social security scheme for employees to survive after retirement
 
A media report captioned “Union budget may boost take-home salaries” published in The Hindu on Friday, sends out disturbing signals. According to the report, the Union Budget 2016-17 is likely to announce measures to put more money into the hands of employees with a monthly income up to a threshold, like Rs10,000 for instance, by doing away with their mandatory 12% contribution for provident fund (PF) savings. We will definitely have to wait for more details till 29 February 2016 on which day the Union Budget will be presented. Meanwhile, one cannot resist the temptation to caution stakeholders against the harm the proposed measure may do to a fairly good-working and acceptable social security arrangement that exists in the organised sector.
 
On the face of it, the proposal to discontinue recovery of provident fund contribution from wages of employees with low income, would appear a worker-friendly initiative, putting more money in the employees’ pockets. In effect, the move reduces the corpus intended to take care of the employee’s retired life by half. As there are no social security systems of the kind available in developed countries, workers in the organised sector are protected to some extent by their savings through PF contribution. It is cruel on the part of government to lure them by promise of more take-home pay by reducing their forced savings for a genuine purpose.
 
Such a gesture to reduce employees’ contribution should be made only where employers are able to compensate by increasing their contribution to PF to the extent employees’ contribution is reduced.
 
Ethically, smuggling such drastic measures through budget proposals, which get through without adequate informed discussion in compelling circumstances, should not be an option. This happened in the case of withdrawal of Defined Payment-based Pension Scheme, when New Pension Scheme (now National Pension System -NPS) was introduced sans legislative procedure. As the scheme was made applicable for employees who joined subsequently, no one noticed the harm inherent in the measure. NPS was deliberately excluded from the Terms of References of the VI and VII Central Pay Commissions (CPC). On receipt of a host of representations, VII CPC examined the NPS in some detail and the findings find a place in Chapter 10.3 of the Commission’s report.
 
Now the mistake in respect of NPS is likely to be repeated now in the case of employees PF Scheme. Legislative processes should not be skipped for administrative expediency or on grounds of political compulsions.
 
(MG Warrier  is former General Manager, RBI, Mumbai and author of the 2014 book "Banking, Reforms & Corruption: Development Issues in 21st Century India")

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COMMENTS

MG Warrier

10 months ago

The pedestrian apathy of elite readers to social security issues of low income group workers is evident from the fact that after over 800 page views, there is just one casual comment on this article. What more can one expect in a country where the Social Welfare Minister asks banks to give loans to citizens with no means to survive, for constructing toilets? The group of workers that will be affected, if government goes ahead with the move will be worse off than made out in this article clearly comes out from the following excerpts copied from an online comment posted @thehindu.in by a reader Amit:
“The present rate of contributions for employees is 12% of only basic DA and not 24% as given in the caption. Further, out of 12% contributed by employer 8.33 is invested in pension fund, out of which employees receives his pension. The remaining 3.67% is added in employees' share of provident Fund. Thus, just by contributing 12% of a Employee gets 15.67% every in his account, which can be withdrawn by employee at the time of leaving the job. he can also withdraw for approved purposes like purchase of house, marriage of children, self in case of unmarried persions , medical treatment and higher education for children. Further employee's portion of PF earns interest. Currently, the rate of interest is 8.75% which is higher 8.5% earned in GPF by central Govt. Employees”.

nginx

10 months ago

Well the solution is simple. Give employees the option to opt-out of their 12% contribution. Forcing people to do anything including savings is never a good idea.

Those who are saavy enough to save for their retirement on their own will be able to better utilize the funds than EPFO is doing now. Infact the employer's 12% contribution is a total waste in its current incarnation as EPS does not get any interest.

I say give the employees option to opt-out of the entire 24% contribution and instead receive it as bonus to salary.

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