EXPRESSING HIS frustration with the slow and bureaucratic process for capital acquisitions once again, Army Chief General M M Naravane on Thursday said “the danger that our long-drawn procurement processes and bureaucratic speed-breakers would prevent us from acquiring cutting edge technology is a real one”. He also called the system of L1, where cheapest bidder gets a contract, a legacy of the colonial era.
Speaking at the 116th annual session of PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, General Naravane said it is important for the armed forces to build capabilities, which is a regular and sustained process. “For us, it translates to maintaining the right ratios between state-of-the-art, contemporary and legacy systems in our inventory. With the cycle of new and disruptive technologies getting shorter and faster, avoiding technological obsolescence remains a big challenge,” he said.
The Army Chief has been vocal about the speed and complexity of the capital procurement processes on multiple occasions in the past.
On Thursday, he said that although “much work” has been done in bringing about systemic changes with the aim of ease of doing business it is still a “work in progress”.
“There are still archaic rules and processes that defy logic and are at variance to modern best practices. This needs to be addressed,” he said.
While there is a thrust towards ease of doing business, he asked the industry to “proactively push for reforms”. Processes that are out of sync with contemporary times and our future vision “must be ruthlessly shed for modern best-practices”, he said.
“The L1 system is one such legacy of the colonial era that has lost its relevance in a system that is pushing for indigenisation. After all, why should merely price dictate our choice, when the money is destined to be pumped back into the domestic economy. It is time we looked at quality and transited to a T1 system, more in tune with our capability development aspirations,” he said.
General Naravane said that since the emergency powers were invoked in June 2020, 113 contracts for revenue procurement of operationally critical ammunition, armament, vehicles, spares and special mountaineering equipment for almost Rs 9,000 crore were concluded till August 2021. Another 68 contracts for capital procurement were inked for about Rs 6,500 crore, he said, adding that savings of about Rs 1,700 crore were accrued during the period.
“These changes to our legacy systems and processes in favour of modern best-practices are absolutely critical towards the making of a resilient India,” he said.
While the pandemic brought about transformational changes to the world, he said, “disrupted supply chains, unreasonable price escalation and opportunistic resource denials by some greedy nations have reinforced” the vision for a self-reliant India, which today “is a strategic necessity”.
The Army Chief said that the “developments along the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh added to the ongoing legacy challenges on our active and disputed borders on the Western and Eastern Front”. He said the “unprecedented developments necessitated large scale resource mobilisation, orchestration of forces and immediate response”.
He said each of the three services has its own set of challenges and “because of our peculiar environment of contested borders and an ongoing proxy war in the hinterland, the Indian Army is in active operations throughout the year, safeguarding the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our nation”. “Maintaining high levels of readiness and operational preparedness to meet contingencies, is, therefore, part of the Army’s culture,” he said.