Newsviewer Exclusive
New Army chief says leave behind past

Asked to comment on the strain in civil-military relations in the recent past, the new chief of Army said he will have a look at the problems and find a way ahead

New Delhi: New Chief of the Army, Gen Bikram Singh on Friday said the happenings of the recent past should be left behind but made it clear that no controversy will brushed under the carpet, reports PTI.

"Car is driven by seeing ahead through the windscreen and not through the rear view mirror. My issue is that whatever has happened should be left behind and drive looking from the windscreen in taking the army ahead," he told reporters after inspecting a guard of honour outside the Defence Ministry.

He was asked about Defence Minister AK Antony's advice to forget the turbulence of the recent past.

Asked to comment on the strain in civil-military relations in the recent past, the Army Chief said he will have a look at the problems and find a way ahead.

"I have had five tenures in Army Headquarters and this will be the sixth one. We have had no problems in the past at least. Let me see what the problems are and we will take it forward.

"I am certain that given the wisdom on both sides, given the commitment on both sides, I am sure that there will be no problems," he said.

Sending a firm message to his 1.3 million force, Gen Singh said he will strive to maintain its "secular and apolitical" outlook.

"Let us continue to be a secular and apolitical force and do our job the way it should be done," the 59-year-old General said a day after taking charge of the force from Gen VK Singh whose tenure was mired in controversies.

He was asked to spell out his message to the army amid reports suggesting factional feuds at senior levels, a new low in civil military relationship and corruption allegations.

On allegations of a fake encounter in northeast and recent clash between officers and jawans in Ladakh, Gen Singh said all these cases would be dealt as per the rule book and "nothing should be brushed under the carpet".

"I think there was a letter by my Chief of Staff to 3 Corps to investigate those allegations and let me tell you that there is nothing which should be brushed under the carpet. I wish to assure you this," he said.

The Army Chief was asked to comment on allegations levelled by a major in letters to Chief of Army Staff, Eastern Command and 3 Corps Headquarters that a fake encounter was carried out by an intelligence unit under the 3 Corps in March 2010 in which three civilians were killed.

Asked if he felt that Nagaland-based 3 Corps was trying to brush things under the carpet as suggested by his predecessor yesterday, he said, "I am not saying that. I did not say that.... I am not going to comment on my worthy predecessor."

Yesterday, Gen VK Singh had said he was alarmed that no investigation was carried out by the 3 Corps despite directions from the Army Headquarters into the allegations.

Asked how he was planning to deal with the incidents of clash between jawans and officers in Nyoma, alleged misconduct of jawans in UN mission in Congo and the allegations of fake encounter in Nagaland, he said, "All these cases will be dealt with as per the rulebook."

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NSE revises liquidity enhancement scheme for FTSE 100 index

As per the revision in the existing order lever obligations in futures segment, presence on both buy and sell of the near month contract has been revised to at least 50% of the trading time

Mumbai: The National Stock Exchange (NSE) has revised liquidity enhancement scheme for derivatives of the FTSE 100 index effective from 18th June, reports PTI.

As per the revision in the existing order lever obligations in futures segment, the NSE said, presence on both buy and sell of the near month contract has been revised to at least 50% of the trading time during the two separate time periods 9.15am to 12.30pm and post 12.30pm till end of the market hours within the top 20 price points.

The maximum permissible bid-ask spread, for a minimum quantity of five contracts each at buy and sell, has been reduced to 3 ticks from 4 ticks, NSE said in a release here.

In the options segment, presence on both sides buy and sell of the near month contract has been revised to at least 50% of the trading time during two separate time periods 9.15am to 12.30pm and post 12.30 pm till end of the market hours, within the top 20 price points, it added.

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Life Exclusive
America gets back to normalcy after the 9/11 attack

While the US was limping back to normalcy, the hotel industry had to deal with lower tourist business. The 41st part of a series describing the unknown triumphs and travails of doing international business

As the TV channels continue to relay all details of the aerial attacks carried out by the hijackers, viewers continued to spend sleepless nights and asking themselves how such a thing could have happened in the so well-protected and defended American soil. They had no answers, but as experts on terrorism spoke on the subject, it became apparent that everyone had to become vigilant and remained vigilant all the time, so as to prevent any further and future attacks. We became alert enough to contact the security personnel for assistance when we had the least doubt.
 
In the midst of all these, two incidents took place in the hotel when I was on duty. A guest needed immediate medical attention, as he called for assistance from the manager on duty; I called in para-medics right away (911) and then proceeded to the room. There I found a frightened Mr Jackson with a small kid, and a lady lying listless in bed; in less than three minutes we had the emergency personnel attending to her. After they carried out the medical check up, we came to know that, she, being a diabetic had not had a bite, and was literally starving for food! I had the chef coming in to the suite and got the type of food that would bring her back to normalcy.  Once she had her mouthful, literally, she was ok.

There was a continuous flow of security personnel, mostly in incognito, who were either staying in the hotel or visiting, meeting top officials. Patrol cars continued and uniformed personnel were everywhere, particularly in the capital.
 
Like all other hotels in the area, we too were limping back to normalcy but the business from tourists had suddenly died down completely.
 
More information was being given out in the TV channels about the hijackers; discussions and debates about what would have happened if the air traffic controller had not ordered all the aircraft down to the ground, and closing American airspace for all traffic, except for the authorized ones. There was also heated debate on how Dick Cheney, the vice-president had, at one time, ordered shooting down even civilian aircraft if it was a victim of hijack!
 
The rush to check in normally starts just after 3pm and by 6pm, the flow reduces a great deal, and it is about time when we close our refreshments at the Lounge in the Club level.
 
It was at this time, I took a call from a guest who appeared angry and upset. As I gathered from his voice: “Are you the manager?” “Yes, I am, what can I do for you?” I replied. “Come to my suite, right away!” he ordered.  I asked my colleague to man the desk and went to 502 in a hurry. The door was locked, after three knocks and calling out the guest’s name, I opened the door, when he literally shouted that I do! Front office supervisors become manager on duty and we had the master key to open all the suites.
 
When I opened the door, I saw the guest, sitting in a chair, with both legs up, in a kind of squatting position!  When I enquired as to what happened he began: “How can you have rats on the fifth floor?” I apologized, and started looking around, only for him to turn round and say: “It sneaked through the door”. I called both the housekeeping and the engineering department to come to the suite immediately. He wanted to vacate the room and go to another hotel! I pacified him, had the front desk check and allocate a nice suite on the Club level, and within the next ten minutes had him shifted, and some 2500 bonus points in the Club membership. It was difficult to assess how rats or mice could travel to high floors; the only way these could come in is through the grocery and foodstuff that guests buy from supermarkets, and leave the packages outside!  Yes, some guests cannot stand these rodents or roaches!
 
I did not know that hotel managers got together once in a while to hold luncheon meetings. I learnt later that this was one of the regular means of exchanging notes on the problems faced in the industry and how they were able to overcome. Well, it seems that on one such occasion, someone had spoken about me, as a dedicated member of the team, which was pleasing to hear, from the GM of Holiday Inn International, when he called me up!
 
He invited me for a chat and after an hour or so offered me a managerial position in the hotel. At the very outset he made it clear that I should be prepared to work six days a week and could choose a day for a weekend holiday!
 
When I returned back, as my rapport with our GM John was good, I consulted him on the offer.  He praised the hotel as being neat and well run, and suggested that it may be a good idea for me to apply ‘economics’ to the annual salary package offered!
 
I took the hint and worked backwards, only to find that there was hardly any difference in net realizations. Even if one was offered $100,000 per year, it would simply amount to getting $50 an hour. However, instead of working 40 hours a week, managers were expected to put in at least 50 hours a week (20% less wages as a result!) and there was no compensation if the work responsibility drags on even for a longer spell! I declined with thanks, though I kept in touch with him.
 
There were some more details that were made public on the Shanksville crash in Pennsylvania, where the passengers put up a heroic fight and prevented the plane from reaching anywhere near the capital. The last minute telecalls were broadcast and whole scene was heart-rending. Likewise, nearer home, the passengers on the ill-fated aircraft that crashed into the Pentagon had also been given permission by the hijackers to speak to their loved ones, and these conversations really numbed our feelings, and built anger against the perpetrators.
 
Bill Harvin, who was my colleague at the Courtyard, had moved on and one day I received his call asking me if I was ready to take a managerial responsibility in a DC hotel! And, it happened to be 4 Points Sheraton. I believe ‘Sheraton’ as a brand is owned by the Starwood group and there were many other brands that were part of it. Sheraton had the Geac System in operation and it was not an easy one; yet, if one mastered it there was no other system that would be difficult to handle! Bill was the FOM, and he was offering a divisional manager’s opportunity and set up meetings with the top brass. 

I was offered the position, but mulled over the idea for a couple of days, including consulting John our GM, who reluctantly okayed my idea as he felt that this kind of exposure in Washington DC would be helpful. I felt, after all, I was moving on from one Sheraton to another, to gain knowledge!
 
On the very first day itself, I realized that, I was getting into a different scenario because this was a franchised property, and they had their own rules, which meant that we would not have free ‘lunch’ or ‘dinner’ on duty!  This was shocking but I took it in my stride. The next day in the evening, someone from the accounts department called and said that I must pay for the parking in the hotel garage, either on a monthly or daily basis! I made it very clear that this was not acceptable and requested him to transfer the call to the chief accountant so that I could sort this out, as he was one of the three-member panel who finalized my terms. I was told that he was ‘busy’ attending a phone call and would get back in a few minutes. I told him that if this was not done, I would not be reporting for duty the next day! He called back to say that there won’t be any charges!
 
The work in the hotel was hectic; I faced many new factors that emerged in the next few days. The front desk associates were being assigned to new duties and I was forced to take over the job of standing in their place. When the guests came to book for sight-seeing tours, a colleague of mine advised me that this was not done by the front desk and we had to take care of all details, but the concierge will issue the tickets, etc. This meant that he would get the commission too!  Likewise, other guest related facilities like arranging for cabs and bookings for lunch and dinners were to be passed on to the concierge.
 
I expressed my dissatisfaction to Bill, and asked him as to why these details were not given to me?  He was on a full-day job, which meant he would come in by 9am and go off by 5. I was in the afternoon shift, and most of the time, I could never return home before one or two in the morning, as I was advised that managers were expected to be putting in a minimum of 10 hours a working day! I realized that I had been ‘taken’ for a ride by the panel who gave verbal assurances but nothing in writing!
 
On the top of all these, as I began to walk around the area and gather information, so that I become knowledgeable, I was told that the neighbourhood was not very safe and one had to be careful! I did not think for a moment that any place is safe at night, but these were important information that the front desk associates should be aware of before they are able to advice the innocent visitors (who are new to the city). I called up both John and Krista that I had made a serious blunder in moving out of Sheraton Suites in Alexandria and wanted to get back at the first available opportunity. Chad had moved on with a promotion to Atlantic City, and was succeeded by Clive.
 
There were repeated rumours in the office of an impending change in the management; Bill Harvin himself was becoming ‘unhappy’ with the events in the hotel and hinted that he was seriously looking for a change. Then one fine afternoon, I heard a great number of people were being “temporarily retrenched” or “laid off” due to occupancy factor, because of the ensuing holiday season. Close to 5.30 pm on that Friday, I too was given the notice that as soon as the situation improved in March, they would get back to me! This was just a few days after Christmas! I spent the New Year at home, for the first time in many years with my wife. The next two months, though she continued to work in the Fort Belvoir, I relaxed, looking for a suitable opening and hoping that I would get the opportunity to be back in Sheraton Suites!
 
It was at this time, we had the longest three days of continuous snow, when it would take some 40 minutes for us to walk to the 7-11 shop to buy anything, which we could reach in less than five minutes normally.
 
When 2003 began we had great hopes, and after this great snow in February, I rejoined the Sheraton Suites after my interview with Clive, thanks to both John and Krista for their continued trust in my capacity.
 
 (AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts. From being the advisor to exporters, he took over the mantle of a trader, travelled far and wide, and switched over to setting up garment factories and then worked in the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)

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