Money Over Matter | Indian Trojan Horse

The biggest obstacle in ‘Make in India’ programme is the MoD’s Department of Defence Production

One of the most bizarre dichotomies afflicting India’s aspirations of achieving self-sufficiency in defence manufacturing pertains to the role played by the Department of Defence Production (DDP) in the ministry of defence (MoD). Although it is mandated to facilitate promotion of indigenous defence industry as a whole, it works solely for the public sector and acts as its guardian and mentor. It is notorious for the wily ploys it employs to ensure that the private sector does not get a foothold in defence production. Many call it a Trojan Horse that undermines the system from within by ensuring perpetual monopoly of an inefficient public sector.

The government is fully aware of the fact that self-reliance would remain a pipe dream if India continued to rely exclusively on the public sector. It also realises that the much-touted mission ‘Make in India’ cannot progress without the active participation of the private sector. Yet, most surprisingly, it has failed to comprehend the enormity of the damage being caused by DDP’s obduracy.

Every single expert committee has exhorted the government to integrate the private sector in defence production. The Kelkar Committee, constituted in 2004, recommended that select private sector industry leaders be identified as Raksha Utpadan Ratna (RUR) and be treated at par with the public sector for all defence acquisition purposes, including design and development of high technology complex systems.

In June 2005, the private sector was ecstatic to hear the then defence minister Pranab Mukherjee publically admit that a strong and healthy partnership between the public and the private sectors was an indisputable prerequisite for enhancing the defence capability and in sustaining a powerful domestic industrial base for the future. However, the euphoria was short-lived as there was no follow up action.

More recently, the Dhirendra Singh Committee, constituted to evolve a policy framework to facilitate ‘Make in India’ in defence manufacturing and align the policy evolved with the defence procurement procedure, concluded that ‘vibrant defence industrial base must necessarily include the private industry’.

Despite accepting the urgency of integrating the private sector, the government has failed to initiate any concrete steps in that direction due to the stiff resistance put up by an insecure public sector through DDP. In addition to fuelling the imaginary fears of likely threats to the national security, intense opposition is orchestrated through the affiliated trade unions by projecting private sector as a threat to the very survival of the public sector. As a result, DDP is also proving to be the most stubborn impediment in the fulfilment of mission ‘Make in India’.

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