OROP dominated defence scene this year

OROP dominated defence scene this year

No actions on the border, but agitation on the street by retired soldiers demanding better pension package dominated the work space in the defence ministry, which also failed to kick start the Make in India process in the defence manufacturing sector.

In the last 12 months, the defence ministry grappled with the twin problems of satisfying the soldiers – both serving and retired on one hand – and the industry, which is becoming restless in the absence of a road-map after being welcomed into defence manufacturing by the Narendra Modi government in its first year.

The government’s patchy solution to the vexed issue of one rank, one pension could not satisfy a broad section of the veterans, who continue to protest as the ministry created yet another panel to iron out the OROP implementation bottlenecks. On the other side of the spectrum, the much-awaited defence procurement policy could not be realised though defence minister Manohar Parrikar promised bringing out the new policy at the beginning of 2015.

The ministry changed some of the rules for easing of doing business, but in the absence of the proper document, Indian industry remains unsure of what to expect from the Make in India' scheme, which was touted by the government to be a game-changer in the manufacturing sector.

Parrikar set up a committee to find out ways for roping in Indian private sector including big players like Reliance and Tata in defence production. The panel suggested handpicking these firms for selected projects like submarines, aircraft and artillery guns.
A second panel was tasked to find out the selection criterion.

The first set of recommendations by the second panel, headed by a former DRDO chief, made conditions too stringent to leave most of the private companies out of military business. The government asked the panel to have a second look at its suggestions, which are being debated in the ministries before the final document is released in the public domain. But the more time it takes, the less time industry will have to deliver.

The serving military personnel remain unhappy in the absence of critical equipment, policy and manpower. The Indian Air Force doesn’t have the replacement for ageing MiG-21s as the government ordered only 36 Rafale jets, cancelling an earlier tender to purchase 126 of them.

The Navy is running short of submarines. The helicopter woes continue too.

The services need replacement of the ageing Cheetah and Chetak fleet, but there are barely any options left on the table. On the positive, finally there is some movement on having new artillery guns for the Army after three decades and a major shift in the policy to allow women as fighter pilot in the IAF. For the first time, Army carried out a surgical strike inside a foreign territory. But the year belonged to unknown Indian soldiers, who once again became the saviour in the time of distress – from war-torn Yemen and earthquake ravaged Nepal to flooded Chennai. They remain the unsung heroes.
DH News Service

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