Will the lion roar as it should?
As we head to the 11th edition of Aero India in Bengaluru, the highpoint of the Narendra Modi Government — ‘Make in India’ initiative — resonates loud and clear. It is a highly laudable initiative considering that we have been an import-dependent nation as far as aerospace and defence systems go. And we have the dubious distinction of being the world’s top importer of weapons, accounting for nearly 14 per cent of global imports, the highest for any country.
In this issue of the focus is on where we are heading as a country when it comes to Modi’s pet subject — ‘Make in India’. Air Marshal B.K. Pandey (Retd) opines that the highly mechanised lion, representing the spirit of the ‘Make in India’ campaign, will begin to roar, only when there is a major overhaul of the bureaucratic establishment and the government machinery.
Air Marshal Pandey talks about intent and capability and states that while there has been some progress in the campaign, there is a lot more ground to be covered to make it easier for the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Indian entities to engage in collaborative efforts in India. Ease of doing business is one aspect which keeps cropping up now and then as hurdles remain with a bureaucracy which is steeped in ‘bureaucratic ways’.
Substantiating the government’s approach is the Secretary of Defence Production, Ashok Kumar Gupta who in an interview mentions that the focus is on achieving the ‘Make in India’ vision by according priority to ‘Buy (Indian-IDDM)’ and ‘Buy (Indian)’ categories. The government has simplified provisions for funding of 90 per cent of development cost by the government to Indian industry and earmarking projects not exceeding development cost of ` 10 crore (government funded) and ` 3 crore (industry funded) for the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). This would help create an ecosystem in defence manufacturing, key to fulfilling the vision of ‘Make in India’.
A whole lot is happening around this time. The Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced ` 2,74,114 crore for defence, from which the Ministry of Defence excludes ` 11,724 crore allocated for Defence (Civil Estimates). In an analysis Laxman Kumar Behera states that with a share of 1.56 per cent in the estimated gross domestic product (GDP) of 2017-18, the defence budget is the lowest since 1956-57. And among the three Services, Air Force is the only service whose modernisation budget has increased whereas both Army and Navy have witnessed a decline in their respective budgets. Behera is concerned about the trend of underutilisation of the defence budget, despite the numerous improvements in procurement procedures that have happened in the recent past. In 2016-17, only 12 per cent of the total modernisation budget of ` 70,000 crore is available for signing new schemes.
Echoing similar anguish is Lt General P.C. Katoch (Retd) who states that it is distressing that ` 35,000 crore was unspent in 201617, whether this is on account of red tape or other reasons, it is criminal considering the poor state of equipping the armed forces with cutting-edge equipments. It is hoped that there would be course correction.
Please visit SP Guide Publications at Hall AB (AB3.46) during
Aero India at Bengaluru from February 14-18, 2017.