Make in India -Failures in indigenous defence machines sector

Why has India failed to design, develop, manufacture and use in operations its own indigenous defence machines over 70 years-a pertinent question in my minds and in the minds of almost all knowledgeable Indians? I have been following the defence sector since Modi government took over and announced ‘Make in India’ and the Strategic Partnership Policy (SPP). My views are as follows: 1. None of the governments since Independence even after the wars with China and Pakistan gave the defence production its due priority. Recent Doklam controversy with the Chinese has further reminded us that India must pay attention to defence production of its own. We must produce most of our defence machines and equipment indigenously. And let me confirm with my life long experience of manufacturing and management that it is very much possible. 

2. The governments prodded by bureaucrats and defence forces instead of making the sophisticated defence machines such as tanks, missiles, artillery guns or even ammunitions have been and eventoday prefer to import , may be to allure the two most powerful nations on its side. At one time, most of our defence imports were from Soviet Russia and now after the end of Cold War, we are turning to buy more and more from USA and its allies, and keep on importing 70% of the total defence requirements. Modi made an effort but that was half hearted. There is hardly any effective cooperation and understanding between the DRDO or manufacturing DPSUs, technical decision makers of defence forces and bureaucrats of the defence ministry. 

3. Over the years, no restructuring of DPSUs have ever be thought off to bring productivity and efficiency or making companies like HAL accountable to produce efficiently to meet the demand of the country, leave aside the export. HAL certainly would have by now four five world class fully integrated factories to design, develop, and produce the quantity required to meet Airforce requirements of helicopters, fighters, bombers, or for that matters drones of latest generations. HAL facilities, management system and human resources would have been world class. I wonder why if the finance ministry can have a world reputed economists as CEA, why defence ministry and defence production should not have one similar position. Can someone in government answer why the shipbuilders for Indian Navy be under two ministries- shipping as well as defence?

4. It is very difficult for a private company to enter as vendors of components to DPSUs not because private sector manufacturing unit can’t design, develop, and deliver the quality items in time but because of procedural hurdle, corruption and delays. There are already private companies in manufacturing sector in India that are exporting worth about 1-2 billions dollor. The same is true for a really new defence machine required to be built for defence forces. A private entrepreneur feels getting ragged and looted by all levels of personnels of the PSU at every step to whom it tries to supply. Reasons are a lot of discriminatory power and some times unwritten rules.

5. Another major building delays in product development, testing and induction are the Defence Forces’ such as navy the penchant for the latest, with admirals demanding that each warship incorporates newer and more sophisticated technology till last as they go on learning about them from different sources. After indegeneously building INS Vikrant, the navy would have gone for the next INS Vishal as decided earlier, or after building nuclear sumarine INS Arihant, to Aridaman to build the required strength of the navy with already acquired technologies. The navy admiral must understand the timeframe of design freeze. Major vendors would have also got confidence. But both the projects are getting delayed for one reason or the other from bureaucrats or naval headquarter.

6. The in-depth study of the stories till date of the indigenous manufacture of Arjuna, the Main Battle Tank, Tejas, the single engine Fighter, submarines and ships built at our own dockyards, Dhanush of OFB ( ), and artillery guns built by Tata SED and Bharat Forge, Punj Lloyd bare open the weaknesses in our defence procurement system, the discouraging anti national and irrational roles played by the defence force officers and bureaucrats of defence ministry. The PM and Defence ministers till date have failed to bring a transformation in the management and reorganisation of defence production organisations and a cohesive relation in researchers, developers, manufacturers and users. I wish there comes a pragmatic revelation to the head of the country.

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