Ex-air chief trains guns on defence PSUs

Public sector undertakings producing defence equipment are managed at the top by people with little knowledge about the demands of the defence services, former Chief of Air Staff Arup Raha said on Wednesday.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 8.12.17
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Former Chief of Air Staff Arup Raha at the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday. Picture by Anup Bhattacharya

BBD Bag: Public sector undertakings producing defence equipment are managed at the top by people with little knowledge about the demands of the defence services, former Chief of Air Staff Arup Raha said on Wednesday.

They don't stick to the deadline and lack in quality control, he said.

Raha was delivering the "Think" lecture on "Statecraft and Diplomacy: Role of Military Power".

The Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry in association with The Telegraph had organised the meet.

"There is a timeline for producing weaponry and the process can't go on endlessly. Take for instance HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd)... there's labour problem because of unions, the quality control isn't good because there is no mechanism of certification by any external agency to check airworthiness," he said.

"So, we are taking risks. The problem is there's no fear of getting fired. Thankfully, efforts are now being taken to increase accountability."

The country's 24th chief of air staff (December 31, 2013 to December 31, 2016) spoke about the threat perception and India's preparedness to inflict "serous punishment" on those trying to disturb its sovereignty.

"If you don't stand up, you give in to a bully. And for that a nation requires great military capability," he said. "We need to have critical technologies. While some organisations like Isro (Indian Space Research Organisation) and (the) department of atomic energy has been top notch, the DPSUs (defence public sector undertakings) haven't produced much to meet the objectives that the nation has set for strategic independence."

As chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, Raha had been at the centre of several initiatives and policy-level dialogues on military capabilities and diplomatic role of the defence services.

Brushing aside allegations of corruption in major defence deals, the former air chief said the procurement process was elaborate in India and the financial bids for any deal were scanned by several organisations, including the finance ministry, the ministry of defence and the auditors among others.

"There may be small-time corruption here and there. But for major deals there are several tiers. You can't slap corruption charges on the bureaucracy or on defence services representatives. They are experts on the job and they bargain like Shylock."

The South Block has recently come under criticism for the Rs 59,000-crore deal to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets, built by Dassault Aviation, France.

Raha defended the deal saying 36 wasn't enough when the requirement is for 126. He said the shortage would create "inventory management problems", adding that in 10 years many aircraft with the airforce would be obsolete.

"Tejas is a good aircraft and we need to produce it in good numbers to fill the gap. We need to encourage indigenous aviation technologies. Even the US took at least two decades with the F-16. You need to give some time," he said.