3 yrs of Modi govt: Defence in a positive direction
It is a major achievement that the three years of NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi have witnessed no scam in the Defence Ministry. New initiatives and policy decisions have been seen in this crucial ministry which remained hit by policy paralysis during the last regime of United Progressive Alliance (UPA). There is no denying that ever since the Modi government assumed office three years ago, the defence sector has been marked by positive developments.
First of all, it was under the Modi regime that defence ministry came out of the status quoist era of the Congress-led UPA government. To begin with, the Modi government fulfilled the promise of One Rank One Pension (OROP) which had been pending for a long time and the UPA dispensation was unable to meet this demand of the veterans of the Indian Army. There is no doubt that the OROP scheme has benefited over 21 lakh army veterans and the credit for this goes to Prime Minister Modi who demonstrated will power and took initiative even before the NDA came to power. He had promised implementation of OROP right when he had started his election campaign in 2014.
The strong political leadership provided by PM Modi boosted morale of the Indian Army which carried out surgical strikes against terror launch pads in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (PoK). Again, Indian Army decimated some Pakistani posts along LoC in a punitive action for infiltration and terrorist activities sponsored by the neighbouring country. Army also released video of its action in which Pakistani posts are being shown to have been blown up by India.
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley also said that the government supports this action by Indian army. This way the Modi government has sent out a strong message to Pakistan that its misadventure in Jammu and Kashmir will never go unpunished. Undoubtedly, Pakistani army has been helping terrorists infiltrate into Indian borders by giving them cover firing from their posts. This is the reason why Indian Army blew up posts of Pakistani military.
What is quite remarkable in the Modi government is that the functioning of the defence ministry has been scam-free so far. Unlike previous UPA regime when several defence scams rock the South Block, the record of the NDA government is clean. This goes to credit of strict monitoring by PM Modi who has adopted zero tolerance policy as far as corruption is concerned. Therefore, the Defence Ministry has been untouched by the menace of corruption and scam in this government.
PM Modi focus on Make in India mission in the defence sector has been quite intense and it has begun to take off. In days to come, concrete achievements in terms of defence production under Make in India slogan would be seen. Modi government’s bid to boost the private sector’s role in defence production is also in the process of being successful, given the interests shown by certain companies and fillip that the Defence Ministry is giving to this initiative. What is the most positive point in this regard is that the Modi government has cut through the red-tape and long-winded arms procurement procedures.
Deals like that of 36 Rafale fighters, 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers, and 22 Apache attack and 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters are some of the achievements which are result of the Modi government facilitating the arms procurement procedures. The direct acquisition of 36 Rafales, ordered from France for Rs 59,000 crore after scrapping the deadlocked MMRCA project for 126 fighters was another good decision by the Modi government.
Armed forces are being empowered to buy emergency stocks of ammunition and spares for emergency situations. Now there are no complaints from the armed forces about the shortage of arms and ammunition, which was the order of the day during the UPA government. Even the Army Chiefs were seen writing to the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh apprising him about the armed forces are facing ammunition crunch.
This is the result of the fact that the decision making has been faster in this government. The glaring example of faster decision making is that since 2014-15, initial approvals have been accorded to around 140 capital procurement projects worth over Rs 4 lakh crore. What is of significance is that 96 of them are worth over Rs 2.5 lakh crore involving domestic production. This is not all, as round 150 actual contracts worth over Rs 2 lakh crore have been inked.
The Modi government has been focussed on empowering all the three wings of the army. In a major move to ramp up naval strength, the Defence Ministry gave approval for the construction of four amphibious assault ships, also called the Landing Platform Docks (LPD), in the private sector at a cost of over Rs 20,000 crore. According to experts, it will be the largest ever naval project involving the private sector and the ships will be the biggest to be built in India after the under-construction aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. According to sources, PM Modi took personal interest to ensure that such projects are done to strengthen the Navy.
Similarly, the Modi government has been paying attention to the weapon modernisation plans. In what explains it further, M777 guns were test-fired nearly 30 years after the Bofors howitzer guns were introduced. M777 is a howitzer gun like Bofors. These guns are of ultra light howitzers (ULH) quality and have 155mm/39 calibre.
The modernisation deal was initiated with the United States in 2010 but it was finally announced last year on June 26. Definitely, it shows that the Modi government believes in expediting the weapon modernisation plan of Indian Army. The first deal is for 145 M777 guns at Rs 2,900-crore. Under the agreement, 25 guns will be supplied by the US to India by 2021. The rest of 120 M777 guns will be assembled by the Mahindra Defence in India.