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EDITORIAL JAN-FEB 2017

The present Government has been in power over two and half year and crossed the mid-point of their tenure. The hype of 'Make in India' especially from the perspective of defence production, has hardly shown any significant improvement from the past. The euphoria and claims made on easing the complex and cumbersome procedural logjam on defence procurement is still a distant dream. The vested interest and bureaucratic sloth fullness squander each opportunity of systemic reforms to bring competitiveness in the sector. The early momentum is fading away as is evident from number of recent developments, to quote a few:

  • Strategic Partnerships Model is yet to see the light of day and the chapter on the subject in DPP-2016 is still blank, even though we are in 2017. In case the model is approved even now, the selection of Strategic Partner will take some more years and so the projects to take shape even more.
  • Mindset is not to bring competitiveness in the sector. The proposed allocation of BMP modernization to OFB, despite of RFIs to Private sector, thus, taking them on incredible roller coaster ride and causing widespread resentment. Such action goes against the spirit of much claimed hype of creating “level playing field”. Based on such assurances the private sector companies have invested in creating capabilities. The procurement files remain pending for years, causing serious cash-flow problems particularly for small and medium companies.
  • The responsibility is so widely dispersed and diffused as the Government is not clear which Department of Government is responsible for the issue of Defence Industrial License (IL). Resultantly, the files are travelling back and forth between MHA and DIPP. The fundamental problem remains the non-issuance of single-window clearance.
  • The piquant reality is deeply embedded institutional flaws in India's higher defence management, the anomalous division of so called collective responsibility. The political leadership give priority to political functions than executive functions, thus leaving it to bureaucracy whose dysfunctional and inefficient broad construct is authority without accountability. Despite several expert committee's recommendations to bring authority and accountability together, have been disregarded by vested interest. In the excitement over the 'Make-in-India' push of the new government, the fate of MoD's own version of 'Make (India)' initiative seems to hang in balance since long. Number of 'Make' projects are awaiting the procedures, since long.

It is time, the power to be need to realize that the national interest is more important than short term vested or political interest, as shown by Demonetisation.

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