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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

From Today's Papers - 24 Dec 2014

As China Upgrades Navy, India Misses Deadlines and Busts Budgets
 India's new aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant (named after India's first carrier), has bust its budget by 600 per cent. It will now cost a whopping nearly Rs. 19,000 crore instead of the original estimate of about Rs. 3,000 crore.

The warship, India's first home-built aircraft carrier, is presently being fitted out in Kochi and will be the Navy's flagship once it enters service in a few years.

According to the Standing Committee's report, three major indigenous warship programmes are collectively a whopping Rs. 29,000 crore over budget.

The three destroyers of the Project 15 class, the first of which, INS Kolkata, has just been commissioned, are about Rs. 8,000 crore over-budget. Similarly, corvettes of the Project 28 class, which are being constructed at Garden Reach in Kolkata, will cost about Rs. 8,000 crore instead of Rs. 3,000 crore.

There are several reasons why these cost and time over-runs are taking place. According to the parliamentary committee's report, construction costs for the Kolkata Class destroyers went up because Mazgaon Docks, Mumbai, where the ships were meant to be built, was already constructing other ships. With a delay in the construction of the ships, the cost of materials went up and there was also a delay in the supply of warship-grade steel from Russia along with higher labour costs. Further, the identification and assessment of the costs of weapons and sensors was also delayed and the revised estimated was well over-budget.

Similarly, in the case of the Project 28 corvettes, there was a delay in producing indigenous warship-grade steel, the development of which became a priority because of the massive costs associated with importing this grade of steel from traditional exporters such as Russia. The new, indigenous replacement, developed by the Steel Authority of India was complex to handle and required new techniques in welding. With a further delay in conducting trials of various systems from competing firms, the overall project costs escalated because of an increase in development costs and the decision to use new, state-of-the-art systems.

Construction of the new aircraft carrier Vikrant also suffered because of the non-availability of warship -grade steel.  Also, new technologies in constructing aircraft carriers had to be mastered.  According to the Standing Committee Report, there was "inadequate domain knowledge" in carrier construction along with the emergence of new technological advances and new generation equipment which needed to be factored in.  Most importantly, the report identifies that the government's sanction for the complex project in 2002 came "at a time when the form & fit (of) the warship was still emerging."

The Standing Committee Report points to glaring lapses in the pace of indigenous warship construction particularly at a time when the Chinese Navy is growing at a very fast pace by inducting an entirely new generation of destroyers, corvettes and frigates. To match this, the Indian Navy needs to desperately induct new warships at a faster pace. In 2012, the government's Defence Acquisition Committee had approved 198 ships and submarines for the Indian Navy. The present force level is 127 ships and 15 submarines.
No outdated military equipments utilised by soldiers: Govt
New Delhi: No outdated military equipments are utilised by soldiers as government has a well established procedure to replace them, Rajya Sabha was informed on Tuesday.

This was stated by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in a written reply to a question on whether it was a fact that the wives of army personnel have requested the government to replace the outdated defence equipment and have made a representation in this regard.

To a related question, he said "replacement of ageing and obsolete arms and equipment is part of the modernisation of the Armed forces which is a continuous process based on threat perception, operational challenges, technological changes and available resources".

The process, he said, is based on a 15-year-long integrated perspective plan, five year service capital acquisition plan and annual acquisition plan.

The expenditure on capital acquisition in respect of the orders placed on Indian vendors and foreign vendors during 2011-12 to 2013-14 was 53.9 per cent and 46.1 per cent respectively.
Boots, Bullets, Rifles: All In Short Supply For Army
The army is running low on ammunition, soldiers posted to freezing places like Siachen and Leh don't have boots or mosquito nets, and India has failed for over a decade to produce an assault rifle that meets the most basic requirements of the army.

These are some of the troubling highlights revealed by Parliament's standing committee on Defence, headed by the BJP's Major General BC Khanduri. The panel has 33 members from both houses of Parliament.

Based on information supplied by the Ministry of Defence, the committee has assessed the preparedness of the army in the winter session of Parliament which ends today.

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The committee, in a report submitted to Parliament, has found that soldiers in high-altitude areas are short of nearly 2 lakh pairs of ankle leather boots; more than 13 lakh canvas boots are needed in the same areas, one lakh mosquito nets are wanted, and soldiers are waiting for 65,000 Balaclavas or masks to keep their faces warm.

The committee says the Defence Ministry has failed to furnish plausible information about how many soldiers have bullet-proof jackets; the members believe that "an important life saving device has not been purchased by the Ministry jeopardizing the lives of thousands of soldiers."

The committee has voiced its concern over the fact that while the Defence Ministry seems satisfied that equipment like night vision goggles are plentiful, the army has "an altogether different view." The report offers this indictment - "it appears that the Ministry is not taking the Army into confidence while doing its perspective planning."

The report warns clearly that the shortage of ammunition means "it would not be possible for the country to sustain a war for a longer period."

The committee states that the Defence Research and Development Organization or DRDO, tasked with developing technology for the military, has failed since 1982 to produce an acceptable INSAS rifle, the standard weapon of the army .

"The Committee finds it shocking that even years of expertise has not evolved DRDO to develop world class basic product like a rifle," its report says.
Grievances galore at 127th Defence Pension Adalat
The 127th Defence Pension Adalat for redressal of grievances of Defence pensioners, including civilians, commenced at Ahmedabad Cantonment here on Monday.

The two-day Adalat, conducted by the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (PDCA) (Pensions), Allahabad, saw over 174 cases from the ex-Servicemen on the first day. Out of which 85 cases were taking up for scrutiny. Most of the cases are likely to be settled during the course of the Adalat, a top official said.

Some ex-Servicemen from Gujarat alleged that they have been running from pillar to post to get their pensions. Most of them complained that they have yet not received pension as per the Sixth Pay Commission and inordinate delay in disbursal of their pensions owing to corruption at various levels.

One Roshanlal, who retired from the Army in 2009 as havildar, said, “A bank staff, who is also a retired defence officer, had sought 10% of the pension amount as bribe to disburse my pension. Only after I took up the matter with the Central Pay Commission (CPC) in Gandhinagar, the harassment came to an end. Even I received the revised pension as per the Sixth Pay Commission in 2014 after a delay of five years.”

Another ex-Serviceman, Subedar Amanullah Khan Pathan, who retired in 1984, said, “I used to receive Rs 144 as pension since 1984. As per the new CPC, I am entitled to get Rs 10,500 as pension. After a gap of 22 years, I received arrears of Rs 25,900 and Rs 92,000 respectively in 2006. As per 5th Pay Commission I am entitled to get over Rs 1.26 lakh per annum as pension. Till date I am getting the old rate of pension as I have not received the pension payment order (PPO) form.”

Subedar Jitendra Sharma was afflicted with paralysis in 2012 while on duty and retired in January this year. Sharma said, “ Even after 12 months of retirement I have neither received normal pension nor medical pension. All my appeals to the competent authorities in MP as well as Gujarat have gone awry.”

One Lakshmansinh Solanki of Danta village in Banskantha died nine months ago. He had retired from the Army two decades ago. Although his wife was entitled to get pension, it was denied to her on flimsy grounds.

His son Sanjaysinh Solanki said, “Till my father was alive we were receiving the pension regularly. After his death, the pension was suddenly stopped. My father had named my mother as the beneficiary. The bank authorities passing the buck on the Central Pay Commission office in Gandhinagar.”

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