Achche din... not in yet
One year in a five-year term is short for an assessment of performance of any government, more so one which has bequeathed a legacy of issues. The assessment so far for the Narendra Modi Government which came to power one year ago is a ‘mixed one’, considering the expectations of the people at large.
As we look back, a number of policy issues have been initiated and that the work is in progress. In this issue, we have top former military officials analysing the performance. General V.P. Malik (Retd) credits the present Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar of being a ‘determined and fast decision maker’. We must remember that Parikkar who was the Goa Chief Minister was drafted into the Union Cabinet much later as a ‘select pick’ of Modi. Contrast Modi’s and Parikkar’s decision making to that of Manmohan Singh and A.K. Antony, the present two incumbents have shown considerable understanding of needs of the armed forces and have taken progressive steps.
General Malik has noted that Parikkar by holding regular meetings has got the acquisition and procurement machinery moving to make up the accumulated deficiencies of weapons and equipment. The Defence Acquisition Council chaired by him has accorded ‘Acceptance of Necessity’ for procurement projects worth over ` 1,00,000 crore. But he is faced with two major obstacles – lack of budgetary support and the bureaucratic red tape. What then are needed are radical changes in the systems, processes, work culture in the Defence Ministry and that is a seemingly tall order.
The Modi Government has not taken any action on the Naresh Chandra Committee report whose implementation is expected to improve civil-military relations within the Ministry, enable more cohesive decision making and promote inter-service integration and jointmanship.
On the defence industrialisation front, there has been much talk and inducement to persuade foreign original equipment manufacturers to bring the required technology and establish manufacturing partnership in India. The FDI limit has been increased from 26 to 49 per cent, but there is hardly any action on the ground. India is 142nd in the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ index. According to our present Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), it takes anything between 80 and 137 weeks to complete procurement procedure up to placing of orders. There is need to step on the gas.
In another analysis, Lt General V.K. Kapoor (Retd) has pointed out that the procurement procedures and the methodology of induction of new weapons and other systems are flawed and require revolutionary changes. What are the challenges ahead and what must be our capabilities to engage in future threats and challenges need reconsideration and restructuring. All of it should be in light of the likely availability of defence budgets in the future which currently are not even sufficient even to make up the voids and maintain the current force levels let alone modernising the force.
Air Marshal B.K. Pandey (Retd) has pointed out to the inordinate delay in the implementation of the OROP (One Rank, One Pension) scheme which was a part of the pre-poll commitment by Narendra Modi. The Prime Minister this week announced that it would be implemented soon. Achche din for the ex-servicemen, to begin with!
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