House panel irked at delay in defence purchase

Committee says no boost to 'Make in India' programme

House panel irked at delay in defence purchase

The Parliamentary standing committee on defence has expressed its dismay at defence PSUs inability to offer cutting edge solutions including protective gear for soldiers.

This is against the spirit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much publicised “Make in India” campaign to reduce forces reliance on military hardware.

The panel, in its report to be submitted to Parliament, identified grey areas – modernisation of the Army, shortage of ammunition and bullet-proof jackets – to paint a grim picture of perennial shortcomings in procurement policy hugely impacting war preparedness. Commenting on the state of affairs, the committee, headed by BJP MP Maj Gen(rtd) B C Khanduri, stated that equipment become obsolete by time they are purchased and handed over to the Army.

The members’ frustration was evident in their concern expressed that more than six years time has lapsed since the defence acquisition council gave its nod for buying more than 1.86 lakh bullet-proof jackets. Responding to the defence ministry explanation that request for proposal was retracted after three vendors who participated in the trial evaluation of jackets held a year back failed and that 50,000 of them are under procurement stage, the panel registered its disappointment

“The committee is disappointed to note that while on one hand the “Make in India” programme envisages to transform India into a global design and manufacturing hub, on the other, no defence public sector undertaking is in a state to offer cutting-edge protective gear for our soldiers,” the yet-to-be-made public report stated. 

The committee rued that the “Make in India” concept has not been given a comprehensive shape, baring staggered steps including liberalisation of FDI in defence sector.

There is no “Make in India” project categorisation which would have allowed special allocations for it, due which the panel has suggested specific steps be taken to develop core and critical capabilities in the country.

Analysing import content in equipment produced and developed by indigenous platforms, The Hindustan Aueronautics Ltd depends on foreign supplies for its 44% to 60% of parts.  Similarly, ships manufactured by Mazagoan Docks depend on 54% to 72% imports. BEL depends on 41%t to 49% import of spares. 

The committee has asked the government to fix accountability in case of “inordinate delays” in executing projects under taken by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). There are 93 ongoing major projects in DRDO labs, including AWACS, Agni IV, Agni V, Arjun main battle tank and Tejas LCA. Terming regular delays as “deploring attitude”, the panel says there are 45 major projects of more than Rs 100 crore where cost and time revisions have taken place 11 and 16 times respectively.

Complaints

* The members expressed concern over the fact that more than six years time has lapsed since the defence acquisition council gave its nod for buying more than 1.86 lakh bullet-proof jackets
* The committee rued that the “Make in India” concept has not been given a comprehensive shape, baring staggered steps including liberalisation of FDI in defence sector

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