The three days major event DEFEXPO – 2022 on Gandhi Nagar in Gujarat has come to an end. Chief of the Army Staff / General Manoj Pandey made an announcement that “Private sector made well aware of armed forces, key requirements” and that Local Defence Contracts worth Rs. 8 L Circular likely in next 8 years. He said “One of the key learning’s from the Russia-Ukraine conflict has been the critical need to establish indigenous production lines and reduce import dependence, particularly when it comes to ammunition”. He also further stated “Steps have been taken to enhance the private sector’s understanding of the Armed Forces requirements and that “we are handholding startups and smaller companies by making ranges available, easing trial and testing procedures, and making it easier to conduct demonstrations in forward areas”.
The Defence Minister / Rajnath Singh in his valedictory address in the DEFEXPO – 2022 assured good return on investments and invited investors (Private Industries) to park their funds in Defence Production which is targeted to grow $22 million by 2025. He also promised the Private Industries that investors if they have a problem the doors of my officials and mine are always open. He said promising “Good return on investments for the investors”.
Rajnath Singh further said that to increase domestic participation in the Defence Sector, the Government has reserved a fixed amount of capital acquisition for Defence for domestic procurement. For the year 2022-2023 this amount is 68% or Rs. 85,000 crore and 25% of this amount has been further reserved for domestic Private Industry.
He also invited US Companies to set up manufacturing Units in India and develop collaborations with Indian Industries to create a global supply chain free from vulnerabilities and uncertainties “As India’s Defence based grows, Private Sector companies from the US can explore the vast potential for creating in India and exporting from India. We are delighted to work with the US our valued partner”.
Reacting to the above statements made by the Army Chief and the Defence Minister, C. Srikumar, General Secretary of AIDEF, whose organization and other Trade Unions are in loggerhead with the Government, post Corporatization of Ordnance Factories said “in Tamil there is a proverb that when butter is readily available in hands, peoples search for Ghee”. Before the Government handholding the private industries in the Defence sector should first take care and support its own time tested industries, the 41 Ordnance Factories and the R&D Organization DRDO. The Army Chief announced that next 8 years, Rs. 8 lakh crore will be spent for procurement of Defence equipments to the Indian Army. We want to know that out of this Rs. 8 lakh crore, what is the share of the 41 Ordnance Factories. Everybody, in the Government is interested only in giving a red carpet welcome to the private corporate and companies who have never come to the rescue of the Indian Army when they are in crisis and need. The Government’s aim from the above announcements has become clear that they are not going to place orders on the Indian Ordnance Factories and to encourage only the private industries. Everybody knows what has happened in the case of the 4 Ordnance Factories under the TCL Corporation. The assurance of handholding of these factories are only confined to paper.
The Indian Army instead of placing the orders for procurement of the newly designed Combat Digitally Printed Uniform have floated a Tender which according to us is illegal and restrictive which is a clear violation of the guidelines issued by the CVC. We have lodged a complaint in this regard to the Defence Minister and also to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. We have also requested that the Tender should be cancelled and the Order for manufacturing Uniform should be placed on the 4 Ordnance Factories under TCL Corporation. If one goes through the history of procurement of the Indian Army he will come to know that for the Troop Comfort Items including Mosquito Nets the Army has several times gone to the private sector and the private sector has miserably failed, resulting in the Army coming back to the Ordnance Factories. Even now we have come to know that thousands of Army dresses supplied by the private firms are lying in the stores of COD Kanpur because of substandard quality. Despite all these bitter experience we fail to understand, why the Army and the Government is of so much love to the private sector.
The Defence Minister has invited the US private companies for setting up their Units in India. What happened under the leadership of the then Prime Minister late Atal Bihari Vajpaiji on the 11 th and 12 th of May, 1998 when India conducted a set of 5 Nuclear test. Immediately, after this nuclear test by India the USA imposed economic sanctions on India. This is despite our former Prime Ministers assurance of no first use of nuclear weapons. One should not forget history and the past experiences. The Chief has stated that India has learned lot of lessons from the Russia – Ukraine conflicts. Then why India is not learning from the past hundreds of experiences about the attitude of private sector during crisis and war. People in the helm of the affairs in the South Block should go through the Kargil crisis records which will give a clear picture that how India suffered in the hands of private sector. Therefore, it is obligatory on the part of any Government in the interest of national security and Defence preparedness to protect its own Defence Industry so that the Defence of the country is not dependent on profit minting private corporates concluded C. Srikumar.
Views expressed here are those of C. Srikumar, General Secretary, AIDEF