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Home > News > PTI

Defence minister rules out withdrawing army special powers

December 05, 2006 23:09 IST

Ruling out repeal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Defence Minister A K Antony on Tuesday said only necessary amendments would be made to make the law " more humane".

"There is no question of repealing the Act. Only necessary amendments will be made to make it more humane" Antony told reporters in New Delhi.

He also made it clear that the Army was not opposed to carrying out amendments in the Act. The Minister's remarks to reporters on the sidelines of a function to flag off an adventure motor rally to Myanmar assume significance as there has been widespread violent agitation in Manipur demanding repeal of the Act.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced last week in Imphal that the government was considering amendments in AFSPA, which has evoked resentment from a cross-section of the people of Manipur where it is in force.

The minister, in the presence of the Myanmar Chief of General Staff Gen Thura Shwe Man, flagged off 43 cars in the first ever Indo-Myanmar army car rally, which would terminate in Taukkyan War Cemetary outside Yangon.

The cemetary contains 6,374 graves of Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Second World War, of whom 867 are unidentified.

The armed forces are working on measures to prevent suicides in their ranks, Defence Minister A K Antony said.

"The suicides are being investigated and we are taking this kind of incidents seriously", the minister said in New Delhi when asked to comment on the suicide by senior officer Lieutenant Colonel Pankaj Jha in Udhampur over the weekend.

Jha's suicide was the 100th instance reported in the armed forces in the last one year and according to figures tabled in Parliament, the suicide rates are hovering around this number for the last four years.

Asked why there was a sharp rise in suicide cases in the forces and the allegations by the family members of the late officer that he was harrassed by his seniors, Antony said "the army is also taking it seriously".

He said two inquiries were being conducted simultaneously, one by the police and the other by the army and "suitable actions will be taken only when reports are received".

"We are concerned over the incident and will try to prevent recurrence of such incidents in future", Antony said. Army Chief General J J Singhm, who was also present on the occasion of flagging off of the first ever Indo-Myanmar car rally, said figures of suicide in the army hovered around 100 every year.

"However, every life is precious. We are concerned over this and taking all possible measures in this regard", he said.

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