Tuesday, 6 December 2011

FDI (Direct Foreign Investment) - another invitation to East India Company?

FDI  -good or bad for India ?

The Indian Parliament is presently facing a unique crisis. The reason is introduction of FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in retail sector which Govt. is adamant to enforce while opposition & other political parties are opposing tooth & nail. Both sides have their points of view to justify their arguments. Government says this will allow multi-national companies like Wall-Mart etc. to operate in India which will bring in foreign investment & in turn result in development of infra-structure. Besides this will help Indian farmers since these companies would directly purchase produce from them at better price thus cutting down the middle man etc.

I am not an economist. I can barely plan my personal economics efficiently.  But I do believe the basic fact of life where bigger fish eat away the smaller fish, rich dominate the poor, stronger bully the weaker and so on. This also reminds me of an incident which confirm my view.

The place was Namibia (earlier known as South West Africa), and the year was 1991. The country was newly librated from South Africa and was keen to stand on its feet in every respect. I was posted in the Indian Embassy, Windhoek at the specific request of SWAPO for some project. This is what I witnessed about big fish eating smaller fish.
Prior to achieving independence, the cotton produced in Namibian farmers, was purchased by SA (South Africa) mills. But now Namibia wanted to have its own ginning mill. An Indian industrialist promptly reached Windhoek. Negotiations were held with the local Govt and it was decided that all the cotton produced it Namibia will in future, be sold to this Ginning mill only and no more to SA.

The mill got commissioned soon and the trouble also started along with it. The bigger fish could not tolerate smaller fish getting in to its territory. So the SA mills which earlier used to purchase raw cotton at the rate of Rand 10/- per bail, raised their purchase price to Rand 15/- and subsequently to Rand 20/-. Obviously the farmers were too happy to get such a jump in price which they had never thought of and thus continued selling their cotton to SA only. The local Ginning mill set up by the Indian could not effort to purchase raw cotton at such a high price & compete with the giant SA mills. After 3 years of unsuccessful competition, the mill closed down & poor Indian industrialist quit & returned to India.

After 3-4 years, finding no more competition, the SA mills returned to their original rate of purchase of the raw cotton, leaving no choice with the farmers but to sell their product at what so ever rate SA mills fixed.
Any lesson learnt ? Yes. The multi national companies if allowed to come in India in retail sector, will be here to earn profit and not for welfare of India and its farmers. We should manage our own affairs ourselves. Only thing needed is a clean Govt, strong desire to do & less foreign oriented economists at the helm of the affairs. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Taxila Contd....

This is another picture of Taxila showing remains of the old construction & the general area.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Taxila Continued.....

The remains of a stone wall at the Taxila University site. The stones have been laid in such a way that it ensures soundness and durability of the wall as well as its appearance.

                                                   Photograph below is of a small Musium at Taxila



Some time back I had mentioned about Taxila in one of my blogs briefly.  It is a small town  located in Pakistan and   falls between  Rawalpindi & Peshawar on Grand trunk Road. Although not of much significance in the present day, Taxila was one of the most important places in the ancient time  during the  Mauryan  empire from 324 BC to 187 BC . It is said that in  those days, Nalanda in the east and Taxila in the West were the two  world famous universities in India.

The  remains of  some of the monuments at Taxila reflects even today, the excellence of quality of work in  stone cutting  which was available during that period. According to various  leading historians, a wide range of metals was also well known and special characteristics as regards the mining and manufacture of these metals  have been recorded. The knowledge extended both to utilitarian metals such as iron, copper and lead and to precious  metals such as gold and silver. The remains of copper bolt antimony rods and nail-parers from Hastinapur and other copper and bronze objects including coins have been found from the Mauryan strata at Bhir Mound in Taxila and other places.

While I was posted at Islamabad, I had the opportunity to visit  Taxila on number of occasions. It was , however, disheartening  to notice that  not much care was given by the local Government to preserve these  old monuments. Even the local official guide hardly possessed any knowledge about the  Mauryan (Hindu) kings viz. Chandragupa, Maurya, his son Bindusara or  his grand son Ashoka the Great  and others.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Becoming MUFFT

This is one more hilarious episode of the army days which I must share with you..(But to really understand the comic situation, some knowledge of Hindi or Urdu language is necessary.)
The year was 1966 and our Mountain Battery was deployed at a forward location. There was also an Infantry Battalion ( I think it was 7th Komaon Bn) deployed  close by.We often used to visit each others units and officers mess for some  "gup-shup".
On 15th August 1966, on the eve of the  Independence Day of India, we carried out the flag hoisting at our Battery location and as decided earlier proceeded to the Infantry Battalion for further celebration & lunch .
While approaching the battalion, we noticed that after the flag hoisting  the  Commanding Officer of the Battalion was addressing the troops. We heard him telling the men that "on this day our country  got independence and we all became free". Since his speech was  in Hindi, and he could not find appropriate word for "free"in Hindi, he announced loudly that "Aaj ke din hamara desh azaad ho gaya aur hum sab mufft ho gaye"
 We all laughed including the troops, because "mufft" in Hindi/Urdu means free of cost.
Considering today's scenario, I think he was not  much off the mark  The army today is MUFFT as besides its main task of protecting the borders, it is called to  perform all kinds of other duties too. Be it constructing  bridge at Common Wealth Games, saving kids from bore holes or taking care of internal security including law & order problems.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Anti corrption law

People’s Power in Indian Democracy

Today, we had to visit the local family court in connection with hearing of a case. The case in brief, pertains to a woman who, along with her two children, has been abandoned by the husband. The husband is a retired soldier of the 39 Gorkha Regiment (39 GR) of the India army and a victim of alcoholism. He does not support his family financially, beats the wife and does not mind occasionally selling house hold items for his booze. His friends and distant relatives regularly take advantage of it and indulge in daily drinking session with him at his cost. Last year, the lady arranged some money by begging and borrowing and some how, managed to get her daughter married. The soldier not only remained aloof and did not participate in his daughter’s marriage, he even stole and sold the dress which was kept for the bride groom and spent it on his drinks.

I must mention here as to how I got involved with this case? After my retirement from service in 2001, I came back to my favourite place at Dehradun, built a small house opposite a reserve forest and gradually started a charitable trust to help the poor in the area, with promise not to obtain any funding from Government. Fortunately my project also got full backing and support from my wife and three children. I myself being an ex soldier, this case automatically landed at my door.

To start with, we tried to admit the individual in a rehabilitation centre for treatment but could not succeed. All other efforts in form of advice, threats etc. also failed. Finding no other way, we brought this case to the notice of the Records Office of the 39 GR, but their reply was also astonishing and gave another twist to the whole matter. They informed that the soldier has no NOK (Next of Kin) in the records. Obviously the person intentionally or intentionally, had not informed his unit about this marriage which was solemnised 24 years ago and  the  two children born out of this marriage.

At long last, finding no other alternative, we filed a civil suit in the family court at district Dehradun, seeking it's order to sanction some reasonable amount of money out of the monthly pension of the soldier to be paid regularly  to the wife and children. The case is going on without any progress so for. We are, however, enjoying the court visits as we find it educative and amusing in many ways. The most amazing thing one finds is the daring attitude of the court staff who do not hesitate negotiating and demanding bribe from the clients for various kinds of favour they could provide. No judge turns up before 1145-1200 hrs.The rot had probably set in long time ago which we are noticing now. We find it more disgusting as this is the first time that we are actually seeing an Indian court (thank God for it). Up till now our impression of a court was what we have been seeing in the  Bollywood films.

Coming back to the title of this article “People’s power in Indian democracy”, it was literally seen to be believed today in the court. The complete atmosphere had changed. Judges were in their chambers at dot 10:00 AM. Work commenced within few minutes. No negotiations or bribe noticed. Even the court premise was found comparatively clean.  

But how all this happened? The answer is simple. Because a 74 year old soldier of  the Indian army had set down on a hunger strike from 16th to 28th August morning, demanding the government to introduce a strong Ombudsman (Jan Lokpal Bill) to fight and eliminate the rampant corruption in the country. Whole country rose to his call, North to South, East to west and finally even the Government woke up from its slumber, agreeing to his demand. His name is Sepoy (Driver MT), Kishan Babu Rao Hazare, popularly known as Anna (elder brother) Hazare.

Every one in India now hopes that the Government sincerely brings the draft bill on Ombudsman as suggested by the expert team of Anna with out loosing much time. This law no doubt,would bring a sea change in the whole country, help eliminate the cancer of corruption and  accelerate the pace of development . JAI HIND

Friday, 26 August 2011

Anti corruption movement in India

Hi all,
 yesterday evening  we carried out a candle march along with other residents of our colony. This was in support of the Anna Hazare's movement against corruption in India.
The march involved 5 Kms walk on the main road. There were over 300 people- mostly senior citizens over 65 years of age.-all carrying play cards and national flags, shouting slogans similar to what our earlier generation did during India's Independence movement in 1947 & before.

Though we all got tired by the end of the march, but no doubt every one was full of enthusiasm & patriotic spirit.

We wondered, when was the last time we had probably taken a National flag in hand & marched in a procession like this? Most of us did it during school days in 40s-50s.. We all felt, that India is awaken again & this time against corruption & bad politicians. Lets pray we succeed. JAI HIND

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Grand Trunk Road:Kabul to Bengal


These days I am going through history books on Ancient India. I never had a chance to read our history in such details earlier. In collage & university, I was a science student and as such my knowledge of history remained basic - taught up only to the tenth grade. While in service, most of my time was devoted to going through the histories of other countries, hence this effort to catch up.

In my blog dated 13 June 2011, I had mentioned the Grand Trunk Road connecting Kabul to Bengal. In schools we were taught that this road was built by Sher Shah Suri, who had ruled parts of India from 1540 to 1545.  In Pakistan it is claimed to have been built by the Mughal kings. However, as a young boy, I was told numerous stories of a great Hindu king named Chandra Gupta Maurya, his son Bimbisar and his grandson Asoka the Great who ruled the subcontinent from 321-185 BC. The Maurya empire covered not only whole of India but present-day Pakistan including POK, Afghanistan, and Sri-Lanka. It is therefore obvious that this grand road was built by the Hindu Mauryan kings and not by the Suris or Mughals.

In this respect following experts from books of some of the eminent historians like Romila Thapar, are worth mentioning:

1. “Taxila (presently in Pakistan) was in the BCs a place of learning. It was not merely a political capital of strategic importance. It was on the main North–West highway connecting East & West and thus a commercial centre with a cosmopolitan culture”.

2.  “With the spread of the Mauryan empire from Pataliputra outwards communications had naturally to be extended as far as the frontier or even farther. The development of bureaucratic administration contributed to the necessity for such communications, since the officials had constantly to be in touch with the capital cities. Thus, there were not only the main routes traversing the empire or radiating from Pataliputra, but the provinces had also to be served with their own smaller network of routes. Mauryan administration seems to have employed a special group of officials whose concern was with the building and maintenance of roads. These are referred to by Magasthenes as agoranomoi. The literal meaning of the term being “market commissioners”. But their work was related to communications. They were responsible for the construction of roads. At every ten stadia signposts were erected recording distance, by-roads, and other such information. This remark is reminiscent of the 7th Pillar Edict where Asoka states that he has had wells dug at every eight Kos, which is a distance of about nine miles.

The Royal Highway from the North West (in the region of Taxila) to Pataliputra was considered the most important route; it had continued to be so through the centuries, being familiar today to modern Indians as the Grand Trunk Road. It has been described in some detail in a Latin source. ‘There was an extension eastward which was said to have reached as far as Tamluk or even farther to the mouth of the Ganges. It was equally important from both the commercial and the strategic point of view. Before the development of the sea trade it was the chief trade route with the west, Taxila being the point of exchange. Even for inland trade it was frequently used since there was considerable exchange of goods between the Ganges region and the North-West’”.

Having so much of historical facts about this road, one fails to understand why the history is not represented in our country in its true perspective. Is there any deep rooted-agenda or appeasement policy towards some? Why should this Sher Shah Suri road, which is also called the Grand Trunk road, not be named after the Hindu kings who really built it? (Leave aside Pakistan, which survives on lies and continues to make all efforts to eradicate past history in the region not connected with Muslim rule). But we should be proud of our past glory. 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Army Communications 50 years ago: From the Mountain Artillery, India

An anecdote on a lighter note:
Today again, let me tell you of an incident from my old army days.

The period was early 1960s. In those days, like many other things, communication too was very rudimentary, nothing like what we have today. There were no mobile phones, internet or public telephone booths or kiosks. As a result, personal communication between places, particularly border areas were nonexistent.

The defence personnel posted in far flung forward areas were obviously the biggest sufferers since they were cut off from their family and friends for months on end. The only communication available then was through the Army Postal Service (APS).

The system was simple and efficient, although time consuming. All private mail was processed, censored and delivered to the addressees through the APS only. Our postal addresses were also kept secret and thus the family & friends had only to write one’s name with rank, the name of the unit, mark it “care of 56 APO or 99 APO” (Army Post Office) and drop the letter in the nearest letter box. The civilian postal service all over India would then simply send all such letters to the main APO at New Delhi, where these would be sorted and sent to the units concerned, at various operational areas in the country. The day to day official communication between the units and sub-units was carried out through wireless sets.

After the 1962 Indo-China war, our 22nd Mountain Artillery Regiment (also known as Victoria Regiment), had just returned to a peace station, in district Bareilly, where it was accommodated in the Cantonment area.  Soon some family accommodation was also allotted to the Regt. where married officers and few men stayed with their families.  The bachelors were given leave liberally and every one was in the process of gradually settling down for some well-deserved rest. Peacetime activities in the Regt had also commenced, dealing mainly with training, reorganisation, maintenance of animals and equipments etc. However, while this was going on, the Regt again got orders to pack and move to another operational area immediately.

With in a week’s time the move was completed and the Regt occupied its defences in a newly created operational Sector. Since most of the heavy, non-operational stuff of the Regt was left at the peace station, a small detachment was left at the rear to take care of all the administrative matters at the station. The few families too continued to stay there. The wireless communication between the Regiment and the Rear Detachment (Det) was quickly commissioned with laid down procedures and daily time schedules.

The day to day routine wireless communication between two operators went some thing like this:-

Regt. Hqs.  Signal Operator (call it main): Hello Alfa bravo Charlie, Report my signal over.

Operator of the Rear Detachment (Call it Rear): Alfa Bravo Charlie, You are strength 5 over.

Main: Alfa Bravo Charlie, have you sent all personal mails with last Courier over.
Suddenly the Operator of the Rear Detachment, on this particular day seemed frantic and nervous. His voice also became louder.

Rear: Alfa Bravo Charlie, fetch Tiger, repeat fetch Tiger urgently over.

Main: why Tiger? Repeat your message over.

Rear: I say, fetch Tiger, Fetch Tiger over.

The Main operator rushed to the bunker where the CO (Commanding Officer) of the Regiment was having a conference with rest of the regimental officers.  The Operator conveyed the message to the adjutant (a staff officer of the CO) in whispers.  And soon after, the conversation on the wireless resumed

Main: Hello Alfa Bravo Charlie, it is Lamb here, pass your message over.

Rear:  Alfa Bravo Charlie, Lamb not required; only Tiger repeat Tiger required .Please fetch Tiger urgently.

Main: (With some annoyance): Alfa Bravo Charlie. Tiger busy; can not come. It is Lamb here. Pass your message over.

Rear: Alfa Bravo Charlie, it is Tigress here. She wants only Tiger. Please fetch Tiger urgently.

Main (after few minutes’ silence): wait over.

Actually, in the operational area, most of the key officers are referred in the signal communication by certain code names. This is basically to hide their identity from the enemy. Thus a Commanding Officer is known as Tiger, second-in-Command as Lamb, Signal Officer as Sparrow and so on.

In this particular incident, the Co’s wife at the Rear location had to tell some thing urgently to her husband. Having no means of any personal communication channel, she rushed to the Rear Det Signal room and asked the operator to call the CO on the set. She did not realise that the wireless net was only for official purposes. The operator too, seeing the CO’s wife in the signal room, got nervous and frantically started calling for the CO. And since there obviously was no code for CO’s wife in the signal procedure, he had no alternative but to refer to her as Tigress.

All of us present at the conference, heard the episode and giggled. The CO too felt a bit embarrassed. In the evening there were drinks on the house on the COs behalf. After few drinks, he gave following advice to every one-

 “ We need to train our wives too about the security matters, particularly –The DOs & DON’TS in the services”.

The tag of the “Tigress “too stuck with CO’s wife for a long time, although of course, we also realised the drawbacks of the poor communication available then.

Monday, 27 June 2011


Hi folks,

Today, I am going to tell you a story which has always been very close to my heart. The year was 1963-64 and the Indo-China war had just ended.  The Government of India, at long last, had realised its folly of neglecting the defence forces since independence. So the process of correcting  past mistakes began on war footing, resulting in raising of new battalions and regiments, procurement of better and more modern fire arms, guns and other equipments etc. Many border areas where army had no earlier presence due to paucity of manpower quickly fell under the ambit of defence forces.

Keeping in line with this, a new Army Division was also raised to cover the Central Sector and units were soon ordered to move to the assigned operational areas under the newly formed brigades.  My Battery, the 2nd (Derajat) Mountain Battery Frontier Force,  which had returned to a peace station just a few months ago after taking part in the 1962 Indo-China war in NEFA area, was ordered to move to join the new mountain brigade at a place called Joshimath.

As the first artillery unit to move to that sector, we were put on a special train, lock stock & barrel, with all our horses, mules, guns etc., reaching Rishikesh the next day, at the Himalayan foothills. There, the Battery rapidly organised itself for a long march up the mountain. Guns were dismantled and loaded on respective mules as were other equipments.  Officers and men carried their own weapons and belongings in backpacks.  It was a long march of about 270 kilometres up the mountain which we covered in a record time of 12 days.

The march used to be mostly undertaken during the early morning hours between 2 am to 7 am, thus avoiding any traffic or people. Fortunately, there was also no sickness or injuries to any men or animal and the Battery reached Joshimath 100% fit. 

Picture below shows cleaning & massaging of animals: This was carried out daily after completion of  a march. The animals are also checked for any injuries, checking of hooves,  shoeing, etc if needed 

At the assigned area allotted to us, the guns were quickly deployed and process of settlement commenced. Simultaneously, reconnaissance (recce) up to various passes at the border to select suitable gun positions and Observation Posts (OPs) was also undertaken regularly.  

The battery had just three officers: all captains with just six months difference in their seniority. Thus, the senior most amongst us held the charge of the officiating Battery Commander, the second one as OP officer, while I, being the junior most, served as the Gun Position Officer (GPO).

Within a month or so of our arrival, winter set in with occasional but heavy snowfall.  It was then decided that a final long range recce be carried out before the area became inaccessible for winter as well as to construct an underground shelter at the forward most location of the OP to cover any eventuality.  

I, along with a team of 12 gunners with 4 mules, undertook the exercise and was able to recce the area up to the border.  We were able to construct a temporary shelter for the forward most OP. After completing  tasks in 7 days, we started our return journey on the eighth morning, and by evening had reached below the snowline. We decided to camp for the night under a huge projecting rock.
Picture below is of self, en-route to the border area on the long range reconnaissance. Heavy snowfall had already commenced 

Picture below is of Local villagers en-route

                                               Some of the members of the recce team

It was then that we heard some sound of an animal behind the rock. Cautiously, we approached the site with loaded rifles and found something quite unbelievable. There was a young bear cub sitting next to its mother and crying. The mother was dead, probably killed a few days ago. We could not determine the reason.  

I slowly approached the cub, talking softly. To my utter surprise, I found him not aggressive at all.  In the meanwhile, one of our men had opened a small can of Milk Maid sweet condensed milk, poured a small amount on a leaf, and put it near the cub. The cub quickly licked up the milk.  We now knew the cub was hungry, so the process was repeated and soon it became a source of entertainment.

After another 2 days of descent, we reached the road head, and on the third day, to our unit, with the cub carried along on our shoulders all the way.

Every one in the Battery was thrilled to find one more addition to the pets in the unit.  The Battery was already in possession of 6 horses, 80 mules, both provided by the government, one ram, (the Battery Mascot), my one personal tomcat and two local dogs. The bear cub accordingly, was attached to the officers’ mess where it started living in my room. My batman, who had been looking after my tomcat and the three dogs (and me) was very enthusiastic. He quickly got a small bed made by the unit carpenter from empty wooden rum cartons and a blanket issued from the Quarter Master’s store for the cub.

The cub, in turn, grew friendly with everyone and an instant hit amongst animals of the unit. Gradually I started teaching him some tricks as well and officers of other near by units started visiting us to watch the fun.  Some mischievous colleagues even started serving him rum which the cub enjoyed immensely. Sitting on the table with us at the lunch and dinner for his meal along with us became a routine for the cub, one we all enjoyed.

The Battery, being far way from the Regimental Headquarters, had no immediate supervision of any senior officer and was thus practically independent. The three of us, all young captains, were in-charge of running the Battery and everyone had their own bright ideas of improving the efficiency of the unit.

The red tape and over-emphasis on discipline was cut out. Leave was granted to the troops to be more liberal.  Being the only artillery unit in the brigade, we also became favourites of the Brigade Commander and other senior officers there.  

By the end of the year, when Brigade celebrated its raising day, our Battery won the Inter-Unit championship trophies in hockey and basketball.  It also came first in fancy dress competition and variety entertainment programmes. Every one was happy and many of us did not even feel the necessity to avail our annual leave to go home.

The news of our popularity soon reached our Regimental Headquarters which was still located at the peace station at Bareilly. That is when the catastrophe struck.

A Bhangra dance presentation by the Battery during the Brigade Raising day function

Picture below of the Fancy Dress team. The Battery Ram (mascot) is third from right and one of my dogs is on front left. The two persons dressed in ladies' Shalwar/ Kameez are  men

Picture below is of the two teams preparing for pillow fight on mules: a competition between two sections of the Battery which was a source of good entertainment

A signal arrived from the Headquarters announcing a visit of our Commanding Officer (CO) for a thorough inspection of the Battery.  The preparations for his visit began: a detailed programme for his two-day stay at the station was drawn up, ensuring that he spent most of his time meeting and dining with other senior officers of the brigade and as little time as possible with the Battery. A dinner, however, was fixed in our mess on the last day where, Brigade Commander and other Commanding Officers of the Battalions, were invited.

The Officers’ Mess was accordingly cleaned and done up. More knowledgeable cooks from other Officers’ messes were requisitioned. Additional crockery, cutlery, linen etc. were begged and borrowed. A brass band of the nearby Kumaon battalion was requisitioned. Our horses, and few mules with riders in ceremonial dress complete with unit flags and lances, were lined up all along the route from the entrance of the Battery to the Officers’ Mess with tall torches pitched at regular intervals.

Self with my dog -a Bhotia mountain breed. Its huge is size,love snow and high altitude A wonderful companion & watch dog
The batmen for us three officers had been instructed to take away the tomcat and the three dogs to the unit line and hide them along with the horses/mules. The bear cub, who preferred the company of officers, was also fed early and put to bed and the room bolted from outside.  The dinner went very well and every one thanked us for making such a wonderful arrangements. 

My other two dogs: out side my temporary tin shed accommodation
Our CO too, seemed happy and winked at us, probably saying “Well Done Boys”. Finally, around 2230 hours everyone had left and we three sigh a sense of relief. The visit had been a success and we were on cloud nine.  As is customary on such occasions, few crates of rum bottles were brought out from the Mess store and handed over to the Band Master, the cooks, horse holders, waiters etc. as reward for their great performance.

It was then that my batman came running in to announce the disaster created by the bear cub. We all ran around to my room and found the cub sitting in a corner and crying profusely.

He has torn all my clothes, the sleeping bag, pillows and all books and papers. Since all the three of us were occupying one temporary shed and only had temporary partitions between our rooms, the cub had also jumped over to the other rooms and damaged belongings of the other two officers as well. 

Our first reaction was to kick the cub out. But then good sense prevailed. We tried to pacify him by petting and talking but all in vain. A peg of rum with some left over food from the party was too brought, but he refused it.  Finally, after much coaxing, he was brought to the dining table, made to sit on his usual chair while we sat down. Then he ate, finished his drink, and became normal.

Soon we realised that he was growing up fast and it was increasingly difficult to cope with his tantrums. Accordingly the nearest Zoo, which was in Delhi, was contacted and the cub eventually handed over to them.

It was a sad parting for all of us but we had no other alternative. We all cherished the sweet memories of those days though, and made a point to go see him as and when anyone from the unit happened to pass through Delhi.

Note: It is unfortunate that the picture of the bear cub, the main hero of the story, has been misplaced/lost.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Indian Spotted Owlet: Rescue Mission

16 June, 2011

Folks, the owlet has been discharged today evening at 1745 hrs and it has flown happily to join its flock. The parents of the chick, along with other relatives, were already in the vicinity after sunset and were waiting.

It has been an experience of its own kind which taught us many new things.

To start with, this was the first time that we opened Google to know more about Indian owls. We learnt that this chick was an Indian Spotted owlet.

We also learnt that owlets are fed only on non-veg food items. No fruits, grains or bird feed. So we had to draw up the menu accordingly and fed the bird with minced meat mixed with a little water, made into a slurry, every 4 hours.  Both chicken n & lamb meat were served alternately which the owlet enjoyed.

Thirdly, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that the whole owl family was living in a tree trunk just behind our house. So, some more company of good creatures on this earth.

A happy ending at last & relief for both me & my wife as it had added quite a lot of extra work for both of us. The dogs are happy too, since second floor of the house has been re-opened for them now; it had been temporarily maintained for the Owlet for the past three days.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Bird in ICU

Hi Folks,

I have so far been telling stories of my past experiences on the blog. But today’s story is the latest adventure, just for a change.

For the past two days, we have been hearing the crying sound of some bird from a nearby mango tree. The sound was more prominent during night, indicating some distress call from a bird.

This morning we located the bird. It was a big owl sitting on a low branch and its chick was lying on the ground, alive but apparently with some injuries. The flock of other varieties of birds (which we have many in our house garden), were hovering around as usual, feeding on the grain provided every morning by us.  But the chirping was unusually louder & more shrill today.

While my wife and I were discussing what should be done to save this chick, suddenly the chick flew up & sat on the railing of our boundary wall, very close to where we were standing. Meanwhile, our house-help had brought back our two dogs after their morning walk.  The chick got frightened by the barking dogs and fell over on the other side of the wall.

My wife quickly went to the other side with a small towel, wrapped the chick & brought it into the house. The chick was injured and bleeding from one of its wings and also had some bruises on the body.

                                              (Below is a photo of the Patient)

Our family Vet happened to be out of town but told us what to do on the phone. Accordingly, as advised, the wounds were cleaned with antiseptic solution, betadine ointment applied and powder from the terramycine capsule diluted and given to the chick with a dropper - just 6 drops, no more and no less, at an interval of exactly 4 hours...

Its 14 hours now and the chick is recovering fast. Hopefully, it will be discharged from our care tomorrow evening.

                                         The patient in the caring hands of Usha Singh (my wife)

Below-Me & Patient

A word about the birds in our garden. As I said they are of various species and we don’t know their names. But does that really matter?  We believe what Richard Feynman has said:-

“You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the birds......So let’s look at the bird and see what its doing- that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of some thing and knowing some thing”

My house in Dehradun, India is adjacent to a huge forest. It is protected forest and managed by the Forest Institute, one of the oldest and the largest institute in Asia. It is also therefore the home of many Himalayan birds, who also spill over to our house.  Lastly, I am told, this chick falls under the category of “endangered species."                                                       

Below is a photo of the Forest belonging to the Forest Research Institute of India located                              just behind my house

(My house, garden & trees)

Monday, 13 June 2011

Grand trunk road kabul to Bengal,Mughals, Sher Shah Sur, Chandragupta Maurya

The Grand Trunk Road:

The picture below was taken in 1984 during my visit to Taxila in Pakistan. It shows part of Grand trunk Road, which is one of South Asia’s longest and oldest roads stretching between Kabul in the west and Bengal in the east. The Information board near the road describes that the road was built by the Mughal kings- though there is no evidence or account given by any historian to this effect. However, given that Pakistan’s history has been systematically and deliberately re-written over the last 30 or so years to meet very particular religious and political ends, it is perhaps not surprising that the road’s history was fabricated on this official board as well.

Not withstanding the false information provided here, it did amuse my 3 year old son (standing near the board) to no end that “from” was incorrectly spelt as “form”. We had to make him quiet by saying that “the Mother tongue in Pakistan is Urdu & not English”.

In India, we were taught in history classes that this road was built by an Afghan king, Sher Shah Sur, who ruled India in 1500 A.D. I am, however, not fully convinced with this claim either.

First, let us take the evidence supplied by numerous  Indian historians who have given accounts of the advent of  Sher Shah Sur rule in India according to which, Sur, also known as Suri or Sher Khan, was an Afghan noble who annexed Southern Bihar & Bengal from Humayun (son of first Mughal king Babur) in 1539. By 1540, he had defeated the opium addicted Mughal king who had  run away to Lahore and then to Kabul, finally taking refuse with Shah Tahmasp, the Safavid ruler  in Iran. Humayun remained in exile for 15 years

However, Sher Shah Suri alias Sher Khan ruled Northern India only for 5 years from 1540 to 1545. On his death, the throne at Delhi passed to his son Islam Shah Sur, who in the course of 8 years reign was not able to consolidate his centralised rule. On the death of Islam Shah  in 1553, the Sur domains were divided by treaty into the Punjab, Agra & Delhi, Bihar with some Eastern Region & Bengal. Each domain was ruled by a son or relative of Sher Shah Sur. The decline soon started & thus, Humayun who had reorganised his army by then was able to regain the lost territory by mid 1555.

Thus, given the extraordinarily short period of his reign, the theory that this grand length of road was built by Sher Shah Sur, seems fairly unlikely and does not really hold ground.

 So who actually built this road?

Those of us who have read the history of Ancient India will remember that the Maurian dynasty started by Chandragupta Maurya in 321 B.C., had acquired and united most of the sub- continent under a single empire, and after the defeat of  the Greek Seleucus Nikator, even the trans- Indus provinces (which today would cover part of Afghanistan) formed part of its vast territories.

Chandragupta Maurya’s son, Bindusar and his grand son, Ashoka further expended the empire. In 260 B.C. Ashoka managed to defeat the most powerful king of Kalinga, after which all other kings of South India also accepted his authority. Ashoka’s son Mahindra in his turn extended the mauryan influence all the way up to Ceylon

Historians also confirm that Ashoka maintained friendly relations with his contemporaries in the Hellenic world with whom he exchanged diplomatic and trade relations. The most prominent amongst them were Antiochus II Theos of Syria (260-246 B.C.), the grandson of Seleucus Nikatoe, Ptolemy III Philadelphus of Egypt (285-247 B.C.); Antigonus Gonatus of Macedonia (276-239B.C.), Megas of Cyrene, and Alexander of Epirus. Communications with the outside world were by now well developed. As a result, there was regular movement of people from Bengal to North West provinces and further towards West Asia for trade, pilgrimage, education etc. The Chief Advisor of Chandragupta Maurya, Kautalya (also known as Chanakya) himself was from Taxila University who regularly travelled between Taxila & Magadh.

Therefore, one can conclude beyond doubt that there had existed some sort of an artery between what is now eastern Bengal & western Kabul even in ancient times. This suggests that rather than necessarily building the road medieval and modern kings probably just repaired and/or realigned portions of it.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Oldest Indian Mountain Batteries (Frontier Force) and Evolution of Mountain Guns


This Battery too, like the 1st to 3rd, was raised from the disbanded artillerymen of Sikh Army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The Battery was raised at Haripur in 1851 and trained by Major Abbot to help the British Army defend the Hazara district of the North West Frontier. More details of this Battery can be found in my earlier posts. 


Raised in 1827 as Bombay Foot Artillery, the 5th is the oldest Indian Mountain Battery. Ironically, the battery was used by the British against the forces of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the Second Sikh War at the siege of Multan in 1849. The Battery was the first to serve outside India when it took part in Abyssinia Expedition in 1867-68.

It did not play a role in the Second Afghan War but took part in the war with Burma from 1885-87.

In the year 1896, the Battery was back in Africa and deployed in Sudan. In 1897 it came back to the Frontier and served in the Second Division of the Tirah Field Force. During the First World War, the 5th served on the Frontier, the Persian Seiten Cordon in 1917 and during the last mopping up operations in Mesopotamia in 1917-1918.

Later, the Battery saw action in the war against the Fakir of Ipi in Waziristan in late 1930’s. It is worth pointing out, that unlike the 1st to 4th Mountain Batteries which were raised out of the disbanded Artillerymen of the Sikh Forces, the 5th never been part of Punjab Frontier Force.

Picture below is of 3.7 Inch Howitzer Mountain Gun deployed in a snow bound operational location
                               ( Me, the then Gun Position Officer (GPO) standing in the center)


Before I conclude my article on the Indian Mountain Batteries, a few lines about the need of maintaining Mountain artillery & also the gradual developments of its guns, seem imperative to visualise their importance in battles.

The guns with the Mountain Batteries used to be light in calibre & designed in such a way that they could be dismantled into eight parts, carried on well trained mules to difficult mountain terrains, and deployed at designated gun positions after quick assembling.

The record time for dismantling or re-assembling a gun used to be between 45 to 50 seconds. The mules used to be known as “Mules MA” i.e. Mules Mountain Artillery, well built and much taller in comparison to "Mules GS" (General Service).

Each mule was designated to carry a particular part of the gun and accordingly, numbered as No1, 2, 3, & so on. The saddle for each mule was specially designed to enable the animal to trot, canter or gallop without dropping or damaging the load.

Like soldiers, the mules also had to under go vigorous training and therefore, their discipline and devotion to duty used to be unerring & beyond doubt; they were ready to serve, always and every where. The mules of each gun detachment would follow the lead mule (Mule No.1), maintaining their positions in sequence and once unloaded & the gun brought in action, they would remain completely still and silent. 

The picture below shows my 2nd (Derajat) Mountain Battery (FF) moving to operational area in 1963

The earliest guns were the tiny 3 Pounder SBML (Smooth Bore Muzzle Loading) and 4.2/5 Inch SBML Howitzer of 1850 vintage. These were replaced in 1865 by the 7 Pounder RML (Rifle Muzzle Loading). In 1879, this too was replaced by the significantly improved and heavier 2.5 Inch RML – also known as Kipling’s Screw Gun. The advantage of this gun ( and all later versions) was that its barrel could be split in two for easier transportation.

During the Great War (First World War), all the Mountain Batteries were equipped with 10 Pounder BL or 2.75 Inch RML guns. It was only  in the last year of the war that the next model, the 3.7 Inch Howitzer, was introduced in East Africa, and proved to be far superior to the previous models. This continued as standard mountain gun during the inter-war years and throughout World War-II, and later on until 1965-66.

Below picture is of my OP (Observation Post) team at forward location. Me in the centre with my two TAs                      (Technical assistants)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Indian Mountain Artillery, Peshawar Battery

Hi Folks,
Here is a brief history of the 3rd Indian Mountain Battery.


This Battery too, was raised out of the disbanded artillerymen of the  Maharaja Ranjit Singh, at Peshawar in 1853. Soon thereafter, it took part in numerous Frontier campaigns including  the most brutal Ambala campaign in 1863.

From 1871 to February 1872, the Battery took part in Looshai campaign, far across on the other side of India. During the Second Afghan War, the 3rd saw action  at Kandhar in 1878.

During the First World War,  this was one of the two original Mountain Batteries to land in Mesopotamia in late 1914, where it remained till 1917 and then returned to India to take part in the Third Afghan War, in the   Waziristan campaigns in 1929 and 1930.

After India’s partition in 1947, when the process of the division of assets of the defence forces took place, this Battery was handed over to the  Pakistan Army.

Below is a picture taken in 1883, where an Indian Mountain Battery is ready to move for action

Another photograph (below) is of an old 2.75 inch Mountain Gun

Friday, 3 June 2011

Indian Mountain Artillery: the Kohat & Derajat Batteries

Brief History of the first Five Indian Mountain Batteries


This premier Indian mountain battery was raised at Bannu in 1851 from the Sikh artillerymen following the second Sikh War of 1849. The Battery saw action in the Frontier area during the first war of Independence  in 1847. (Sadly many Indian historians still call it Indian Mutiny) and in subsequent battles through out the 19th century.

During the Second Afghan War of 1878-80, it was deployed at Peiwar Kotal and saw heavy action at Kabul.
In the early stages of the First World War, the Battery helped defend Egypt from Turkish aggression and soon thereafter, landed at Gallipoli where it supported the Australians and New Zealanders in the fighting and the subsequent pull out. Later the Battery was sent to Mesopotamia & Persia till the war ended.

During the inter-war years, it was deployed in Waziristan in early 1920’s and again in late 30’s. After India’s independence & partition of the country, the Battery was transferred to Pakistan.


This Battery, like the 1st kohat, was also raised from the disbanded Sikh artillerymen. However, it was raised two years earlier, in 1849 at Dera Ghazi Khan. During the 1857 Rebellion, its one detachment was deployed at Oudh and Bundelkhand

During the Second Afghan war of 1878-80, it remained deployed at Peirwar Kotal and Charasia to defend Kabul and then moved to the south of Kandhar, undertaking that most famous march. Later, in 1895, the Battery took part in battles at Chitral and participated in operations of the Tirah Field Force.

During the First World War, in 1916,  the 2D (its nick-name) joined campaign against Colonel Von-Lettow-Vorbeck in German East Africa until the armistice.

Later on, the Battery took part in the Third Afghan War in 1919, the Mohmand Campaigns of 1933 and 1935, and operations in Wazirstan against the Fakir of Ipi from 1936 on.

This was the Battery where I had the proud privilege to serve in early 1960’s. With the modernisation of the Indian Army and its guns; the 2-D is no more a Mountain Battery but has become a Field Battery.

Before Second World War, the Mountain Batteries were equipped with various kinds of guns.The picture above shows a Mountain Battery in action with six of its 7 Pounder guns in ready position.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Indian army, Artillery, oldest mountain batteries

30 May, 2011

My Army Days

Coming back to Indian Mountain Artillery once again as promised in  my  previous blogs, it is interesting to know the historical back ground under which these oldest five Mountain  Batteries were  raised and deployed.

As we know, the frontier area in the extreme West side of the then undivided India was - and still is - the home of mixed tribes who always believed in their own rules and tribal ways of administration. They never reconciled to the Mughal rule over their territory and kept asserting for independence. In the years after the Mughal rule, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab, using his Zum Zum guns and cavalry, established control over the whole of the Frontier area. His empire thus included not only Punjab but also what today is Pakistan, POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir), and Jammu & Kashmir.

Later, when the British Raj took root in India, their Governor General Dalhousie, could not resist the temptation to extend British control further West. Taking into account that Ranjit Singh was already crippled by two paralytic strokes, Dalhousie, in October 1848, declared war against the Maharaja. By March 1849, after a series of battles, the Sikh Army finally surrendered and Punjab Empire was annexed outright by the British.

Soon after the annexation,  the British Army  raised four new Mountain Artillery Batteries in which most of the Indian Gunners from the disbanded Artillery units of Ranjit Singh were re-recruited. These  four Batteries were initially known as Punjab Frontier Force (PFF) Batteries & designated as:-

Ist Kohat Mountain Battery (PFF).
2nd Derajat Mountain Battery (PFF)
3rd Peshawar Mountain Battery (PFF) and
4th Hazara Mountain Battery (PFF)  

Incidentally, the 5th Bombay Mountain Battery had been raised much earlier in 1827 as the Bombay Foot Artillery as is the oldest Indian Mountain Battery. It was however, never part of PFF.

A brief account of each battery to follow in my subsequent blog posts.