Thursday 30 November 2023



On November 12, 2023, a collapse occurred in the under-construction tunnel from Silkyara to Barkot due to debris falling in a 60-metre stretch on the Silkyara side. Immediate mobilisation of resources by the State and Central Governments ensued to rescue the 41 trapped labourers.

Safety concerns in opting for a 900 mm pipe through the debris led to the exploration of multiple rescue options simultaneously. The area of entrapment, measuring 8.5 metres in height and 2 kilometres in length, is the built-up portion of the tunnel, offering safety to the labourers with available electricity and water supply.

After 17 painful days, all the 41 workers who were trapped in Uttarakhand's collapsed Silkyara-Barkot tunnel were rescued on Tuesday 28 November. When all efforts since November 12 including the use of a highly sophisticated auger machine, to rescue 41 workers trapped inside Uttarkashi’s, hit a setback in drilling 60 meters of mountains, a team of rat-hole miners achieved success.

Since the collapse of the tunnel, various government agencies worked tirelessly on each assigned task to ensure the safe evacuation of the workers. National and International experts were also present at the site to render advice on the rescue operation. Several machines, resources, and experts from across the country were tasked with ensuring the safe rescue of workers. Many experts were involved in what is being touted as one of the country's biggest rescue operations.

Since the collapse of the tunnel, various government agencies worked tirelessly on each assigned task to ensure the safe evacuation of the workers. National and international experts were also present at the site to help with the rescue operation. Several machines, resources, and experts from across the country were tasked with ensuring the safe rescue of workers.

Six plans were executed including drilling from over three sites - horizontal and vertical. The machines did help in moving pipes for food and other necessary materials to the trapped workers, but the rescue pipe could not reach them till the end. A few plans were still in the making but rat-hole miners, experts in digging tunnels in coal mines, were able to do the impossible. The rat-hole miners, a team of seven from Jhansi, were able to dig over 10 metres (till the end) within 48 hours which the auger machine failed to dig when its rotor blades were entrapped in metallic rods running underside, relics of some past experiment.

Regardless of personal opinion of Prime Minister of Modi, one has to accept that this kind of rescue operation is unprecedented. Five people from the Prime Minister's Office were at the spot day and night for 15 days and lived there in the container.

The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand was present for three-four hours every day, General VK Singh, Nitin Gadkari and many other ministers visited the buzzing-with-activity site frequently to review the rescue work.

A special aircraft of the Indian Air Force was sent from Hyderabad and the auger machine was brought from Slovenia.  The world's best known rescue expert was called by a special plane.. To order a special kind of plasma cutter, the team was first sent to Hyderabad; then, the plane was sent to America and a special kind of plasma cutter was brought from there. Four machines and robots and ground penetrating radar were brought from Switzerland by special aircraft.

A helipad and a working runway were also built at the accident site and a vertical oxygen generator plant was installed there. Think whether you have ever heard of such a rescue operation being conducted in such a quick manner before in history.


Wednesday 29 November 2023



A list of actual announcements that London Tube train drivers have made to their passengers...

1) 'Ladies and Gentlemen, I do apologise for the delay to your
service. I know you're all dying to get home, unless, of course, you
happen to be married to my ex-wife, in which case you'll want to cross
over to the Westbound and go in the opposite direction.'

2) 'Your delay this evening is caused by the line controller suffering
from E & B syndrome: not knowing his elbow from his backside. I'll let
you know any further information as soon as I'm given any.'

3) 'Do you want the good news first or the bad news? The good news is
that last Friday was my birthday and I hit the town and had a great
time. The bad news is that there is a points failure somewhere between
Mile End and East Ham, which means we probably won't reach our

4) 'Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the delay, but there is a
security alert at Victoria station and we are therefore stuck here for
the foreseeable future, so let's take our minds off it and pass some
time together. All together now.... 'Ten green bottles, hanging on a

5) 'We are now travelling through Baker Street ... As you can see,
Baker Street is closed. It would have been nice if they had actually
told me, so I could tell you earlier, but no, they don't think about
things like that'.

6) 'Beggars are operating on this train. Please do NOT encourage these
professional beggars. If you have any spare change, please give it to
a registered charity. Failing that, give it to me.'

7) During an extremely hot rush hour on the Central Line, the driver
announced in a West Indian drawl: 'Step right this way for the sauna,
ladies and gentleman... unfortunately, towels are not provided.'

8) 'Let the passengers off the train FIRST!' (Pause ) 'Oh go on then,
stuff yourselves in like sardines, see if I care - I'm going home....'

9) 'Please allow the doors to close. Try not to confuse this with
'Please hold the doors open.' The two are distinct and separate

10) 'Please note that the beeping noise coming from the doors means
that the doors are about to close. It does not mean throw yourself or
your bags into the doors.'

11) 'We can't move off because some idiot has their hand stuck in the door.'

12) 'To the gentleman wearing the long grey coat trying to get on the
second carriage -- what part of 'stand clear of the doors' don't you

13) 'Please move all baggage away from the doors.' (Pause..) 'Please
move ALL belongings away from the doors.' (Pause...) 'This is a
personal message to the man in the brown suit wearing glasses at the
rear of the train: Put the pie down, Four-eyes, and move your bloody
golf clubs away from the door before I come down there and shove them
up your @rse sideways!'

14) 'May I remind all passengers that there is strictly no smoking
allowed on any part of the Underground. However, if you are smoking a
joint, it's only fair that you pass it round the rest of the carriage.'

Tuesday 28 November 2023







I am an ex-IAF Officer, who left home in 1966, to retire in 2000. I have seen one war and one small-scale skirmish and noticed how people react under stress. I pray that we are never subjected to another war, even a 'minor' skirmish like Kargil.

I shall be posting between 200-1,000 words a day, as I keep rather busy; yet, I feel it is necessary for the civilian population at large to understand what goes on behind the facade of a peaceful existence. I shall stray from the absolute truth deliberately, though not by much, as I do not wish to invite the wrath of the Powers That Be under the Officials' Secret Act.


Partition saw Pakistan getting the larger share of the booty, as the Brits, prior to WW II, were being rubbed raw in the NWFP, by the Pathans. Hence, the infrastructure to support air operations went to NW India, which ultimately became part of Pakistan. Pakistan soon became a Military Dictatorship, whereas India moved towards a Democracy of sorts, as it was more Socialistic than truly Democratic. Krishna Menon and Pandit Nehru gradually emasculated the Indian Defence Forces, seeing what was happening across the Pak border. In fact, the job a mere Captain would do then is now being handled by a full Colonel, having graduated upwards through the intermediate ranks of Major and Lt. Col. The movies now talk of Major General Sa’ab, not the Major of yore.

Since 1947, Pakistan has been under Military Rule except for a few sporadic bouts of civilian leadership, which have always been toppled by bloodless coups. There was one casualty, though. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged by General Zia, who himself was killed in an air crash engendered by the Israelis. His daughter, Benazir, herself an ex-Prime Minister, not once but twice, was assassinated recently by, in all probability, the ISI, though the word given out was that she was hit by a Militant outfit.

With the Military ruling Pakistan for so long, almost everything is under their control. Their infrastructure, used primarily by the population, has been devised by the Military, to support their forces in a war against India. Talking only about their Air Force, they have airfields strung along the tortuous border with India every 150 Km. These are about 60-75 Km deep and fully fortified. These airfields are called satellite airfields, the major bases being Sargodha, Jacobabad and Karachi. All these satellite airfields have been carefully built under a master-plan, which is something more than what the Indian Air Force has been permitted to do.

Allow me to digress a bit to cite an example. All runways of these bases are reinforced with dense cement-concrete, bearing a Load Classification Index of 70 and above. This figure of 70 is mandatory for any airfield handling big jets of the Boeing-747 class. All Indian military bases have an index of 40 at best and 30 as a norm. What this means is that runway denial weapons that will put Indian airfields out of contention need to have a capacity of damaging runways with an Index of 40 and the French BAP-100 Rockets are a perfect example, able to damage runways with an Index of 45. But these Rockets will barely scratch the surface of Pakistani Military airbases. Thus the cost of acquiring a runway denial weapon to hit Pakistani airbases quadruples; moreover, fewer numbers can be carried, as they are three-four times heavier.

The BAP-100 Rockets are carried in batches of up to 18 and released with intervals of milliseconds, so that craters are made on the runway every 50-75 metres. Attack aircraft carry up to 4 such groups and use them in attacks on the runway and then, further onto the taxiways, which can also used for take-off and landing. The IAF has huge numbers of this weapon which can only be used to hit taxy-tracks and the main runway denial weapon for the IAF today is the French Durandal Bomb, of which a maximum of 8 can be carried by the Mirage-2000, as against the 36 BAP-100 Rockets by the Pakistani Mirage-V.           

The Acquisition Procedure

The acquisition procedure has been simplified and is freely available on the net. The aim is to make the acquisition procedure transparent. When a need for any equipment is felt, the requirements are posted on this site and bids sought from approved Vendors. In case there is only one vendor, the requirements are modified so that at least two vendors can compete for the sale. If the equipment called for proves to be unique, a concession is taken from a Parliamentary Committee to permit a single vendor-purchase. The bidding takes place in two phases. The Vendors submit the Technical Capabilities of their product along with a sealed commercial bid. The technical capabilities are examined to see how close they come to those demanded and the first selection takes place here, reducing the Vendors to those who profess that their product meets with the requirements. These Vendors are then invited to display the capabilities of their wares and a long and laborious assessment is carried out, reducing the bidders to the least. Once this is over, the financial documents are opened and read along with the technical report so that a selection can be made. Generally, the lowest bidder is selected and this company meets with the acquisition committee to negotiate the deal in its entirety.

This process was initiated just three years ago. Prior to that, the process was actually rather arbitrary, with great scope for underhand dealing. Political requirements for campaign funds would also have a role to play, as was most probably the case in the Harshad Mehta scandal. Tehelka exposed the follies of the greedy and it was pitiable to see how little was required to make someone look the other way. It is hoped that the current acquisitions will be totally above board, though there is still space for corruption.  

The 15-Year Wish List   

Requirements do not pop up from anywhere. It has to be an item that is on record as desirable ‘in the near future’. What this means is that a special branch of the Forward Planning Section must have foreseen such a requirement and put it on record in the ‘15 Year Perspective Plan.’ Such requirements are found through research, discussions and information from Vendors of what they have in mind and are testing for both cost-effectiveness and feasibility. This 15-year plan is an on-going plan with no start or finish dates, just an estimate of progress in technology applied to aircraft or air warfare related equipment and when it is likely to come up.

It must be noted that, in the case of an aircraft, it takes not less than 10 years from the Drawing Board stage to Operational Status in an Air Force. The F-16 was first thought of in 1967 and, after a fly-off competition with the F-18, entered USAF service only in 1979. The Mirage-2000 took much less time-8 years-as the airframe had been proven with the Mirage-III and Mirage-V. Our LCA has already taken 22 years and will become operational in 2012, as claimed by an organization that goes by the most impressive name of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). When bought, it will be the most expensive aircraft on the Indian inventory, with all funding provided for by Air Force funds-which factor will not be added to its intrinsic cost in the world market.    

The 5-Year Plan

More concrete plans are drawn up under defined 5-year plans. These plans have a start and end date and also the total amount of money to be spent in the lustrum. I will not go into the details like Heads, Codes, etc. The 5-year plan is broken down into yearly plans, as mandated by priorities. Once a yearly plan is approved by MoD, the acquisitions branch swings into action. As laid down by the internet-listed arms acquisition procedure, Requests for Information on targeted products are issued, with a cut-off date. This is a prelude to the global issue of the all-important Request for Product (RFP) submission, with, of course, a cut-off date. Vendors submit their bids, as already explained and one is finally selected. Part of the final choice includes a demonstration of the product in operation in an Indian scenario.     

The number of contracts can be huge. In the current programme, they could well exceed three hundred per year, so you can imagine how arduous the task will be. There are, on an average, two meetings per working day. If a contract faces a delay due to reasons beyond normal control-like the Tsunami-an extension is given and the negotiations carry on into the next financial year, and the money reserved for it is also carried forward. Contracts that do not reach the negotiation table in time are axed for that year and the money reserved for it surrendered to MoD, for further disposal. This contract is negotiated the next year, at the cost of some other contract, which sets the latter back. This area is the worst-managed part of an acquisition, with MoD proving to be an intransigent and overly bureaucratic agency, to the angst of the Defence Force concerned as well as the Vendor.

How We Get There

It is indeed entrancing to see how a particular type of equipment is ultimately bought:

  • A particular item of equipment is found interesting at the junior levels in an operational directorate or acquisitions branch.
  • Details are circulated within the concerned branches at Air Hq, and Director Level Officers get together to discuss the item and its utility, if at all.
  • If found suitable, it is taken one level higher and Financial Branch officers are included. Its position in the 15-year wish list is finalized.
  • This is forwarded to the Integrated Defence Staff committee which acts as the interface between MoD and Air Hq.
  • IDS debates the issue before taking it up with MoD.
  • MoD accepts the idea or puts forward queries, routed to Air Hq through IDS.
  • Once resolved, MoD initiates technical discussions and conveys their findings through another agency, called the T&M, a Service Officer.            
  • The RFI stage, where Vendors are contacted on a global basis to submit a preliminary project with a can do/ cannot do clause.
  • The Collation stage at Air Hq, where all RFIs are examined, in-house discussions held re priority and a general concept mooted for the next stage. Concurrence is required from MoD (Finance).
  • The RFP stage, where Vendors bid in two areas-their technical prowess, to be proved live and the financial bid, which envelopes are stored securely in one of the many vaults that lie in MoD.
  • The Technical Evaluation stage, which is overseen by the T&M.

Monday 27 November 2023