Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently announced reforms for the defence industry as part of the government’s package for a self-reliant India. Raj Kumar, Defence Production Secretary, speaks to Krishn Kaushik about how the proposed policy changes could affect production of defence equipment in India, and about the role played by Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and Defence Public Sector Units (DPSU) in the fight against Covid-19.
DPSUs, DRDO and OFB have been involved to assist in the fight against Covid-19. How many PPEs have been manufactured and handed over? Which companies are helping DPSUs make ventilators?
OFB and DPSUs have manufactured 15,09,000 masks, of which 1,074,668 have been handed over. They have produced 1,27,350 litres of hand sanitisers and 1,08,935 litres has been handed over. Similarly, of the 44,625 coveralls manufactured by them, 39,167 have been delivered.
Beyond these, the OFB and DPSUs have manufactured 340 tents and 240 have been given out. They have manufactured 10,833 bed linens, handing over 5,353 of them. They have produced and delivered 80 face shields and 400 blanket covers.
DPSUs are also making ventilators, and are being helped by private companies. Skanray Technologies, Mysore and Nice Neotech are helping Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), and Nocca Robotics Limited is helping Bharat Dynamics Limited.
BEL will supply 30,000 ventilators by July 2020. Additionally, OFB has repaired 67 ventilators and handed them to the Telangana government.
As on date there is no budget cut of the Ministry of Defence. However, there has been some restriction on expenditure during the first quarter of 2020-21.
Amid such cuts, what will be the impact on big-ticket ongoing projects likely LCA Tejas, naval projects for ships and submarines?
All projects as on date are moving ahead without curtailment. However, due to lockdown, some of the projects have been delayed, but now the pace of work is picking up since the defence and aerospace industry and its ancillaries have gradually started to function depending on the location.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said there would be a list of equipment and platforms that will not be allowed to be imported. Do you think the country has enough domestic players to fulfil the forces’ demands and match the quality required?
India’s defence and aerospace industry, with the help of DRDO and in-house R&D, has gradually come of age and is capable of manufacturing certain family of platforms and equipment such as a range of field guns, missiles, radars. The Department of Military Affairs has been requested to look into all such indigenously manufactured range of platforms/ equipment of which a negative list could be prepared so that our forces may not have to depend on these imported items, without compromising the security of our nation.
The Army has continuously raised the issue of sub-par quality products produced by OFB that is leading to a higher number of accidents. Has the Army or other services raised any issue with the ministry? What is the government doing to ensure that OFB products match the quality demanded?
The government is keeping track on “Transformation of Ammunition and Explosive Manufacturing in Ordnance Factories”. In this regard, the OFB has developed a Customer Complaint Monitoring System, where factories resolve complaints of the user units and resolution is certified by QAG (an independent Quality Audit Group). A special drive was initiated by OFB to resolve long-pending complaints and take measures to avoid them in future, which helped reduction of pendency of complaints to a great extent.
The Finance Minister also stated that OFB would be corporatised. How many independent units are we likely to have? Do you foresee any objections?
The issue whether OFB would be converted into one DPSU or multiple DPSUs is being deliberated. It will be decided keeping in view the goals of the proposed corporate entities, after seeking expert advice on the matter.
As the Finance Minister emphasised in her announcement, OFB is being corporatised and not privatised, I would also request you to highlight this basic difference through your media. OFB is not going to be privatised. Objections from certain stakeholders can be resolved through mutual discussions. The government is committed to safeguard the wages and retirement benefits of employees of OFB.
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