New amendments to DPP assign a position of pre-eminence to DRDO. It will exercise total control over sub-categorisation of development cases and decide as to what all projects it should undertake. In other words, it will have the first right of refusal. Other options like ‘Buy & Make with ToT’ and ‘Buy (Global)’ can be explored only after DRDO declines to undertake a project.
…new amendments to DPP assign a position of pre-eminence to DRDO. It will exercise total control over sub-categorisation of development cases and decide as to what all projects it should undertake.
The month of April 2013 saw two developments of far-reaching consequences. One, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved amendments to be incorporated in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), with the primary objective of strengthening the indigenous defence manufacturing base and reducing dependence on imports. Two, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) expressed demand for an increase in the allocation of funds to be able to deliver the systems demanded by the armed forces.
The most important change in DPP pertains to the prioritisation of the routes to be adopted for procurements. The specified order of preference is ‘Buy (Indian)’, ‘Buy & Make (Indian)’, ‘Make’, ‘Buy & Make with ToT’ and ‘Buy (Global)’. Any proposal to select a particular category must now state reasons for excluding the higher preferred category/categories. Although indigenous production/procurement has always been the first choice, it has now been made a part of DPP. It is claimed that such a mandate will ensure that all other options are exhausted before resorting to imports.
In order to give adequate time and opportunities to the indigenous industry to respond, DAC has directed release of a public version of its 15-year Long Term Perspective Plan, outlining the ‘Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap’ to provide guidance to the Indian defence industry for building necessary technological and infrastructural capabilities. Further, the Service Head Quarters (SHQ) have been instructed to carry out consultations well in advance to facilitate translation of capital acquisition plans into national defence R&D and production plans.
Pre-eminent Role of DRDO in the New Procedure
The order of preference contained in DPP-2013 implies that every procurement proposal has to be first appraised for ‘Buy (Indian)’. In case considered infeasible and unviable, reasons for the same have to be noted down and the next option i.e. ‘Buy & Make (Indian)’ explored. This process of elimination has to be followed till a suitable categorisation is discovered and assigned.
A closer look at the categorisation process will be highly revealing and instructive. ‘Buy (Indian)’ category covers two types of proposals. One, outright purchases from Indian vendors with minimum 30 percent indigenous content and, two, all ‘Make (Low-tech)’ cases. DPP mandates that all ‘Make (Low-tech)’ cases be treated as ‘Buy (Indian)’ with minimum 50 percent local content.
During its history of over five decades, DRDO has not developed single equipment in the promised time-frame and conforming to the accepted parameters.
As the current capability of the Indian defence industry is limited to the production of some run-of-the-mill equipment and low-tech subassemblies/components, no major procurements can be affected though this route. Thus this route will continue to be of academic value till the Indian defence industry comes of age.
The second route in the order of priority is ‘Buy & Make (Indian)’. Indian vendors who are known to have requisite technical and financial capabilities are invited to submit their proposals to develop and productionise equipment through their own or foreign effort. As the vendors have no ready equipment to offer, the procedure is structurally flawed. It has been a total failure. Although four years have elapsed since its introduction in 2009, not a single proposal has been successfully progressed through this route.
In view of the above, the third option of ‘Make’ is really the only viable alternative available for key procurements. Subsequent to the recommendations of the Kelkar Committee, indigenous development i.e. ‘Make’ procedure was split into three sub-categories in 2006, as shown in the Illustration.
It is for DRDO to determine as to what can be developed and produced within the country in the required time frame. It undertakes proposals for ‘strategic, complex and security sensitive systems’ as per the D RDO procedure and funding policy. It also identifies high-tech complex systems that are based on proven/matured technologies and do not entail fundamental research. These projects are categorised as ‘Make’ and offered to Indian industry (both in public and private sectors) on a level playing field.
Thus new amendments to DPP assign a position of pre-eminence to DRDO. It will exercise total control over sub-categorisation of development cases and decide as to what all projects it should undertake. In other words, it will have the first right of refusal. Other options like ‘Buy & Make with ToT’ and ‘Buy (Global)’ can be explored only after DRDO declines to undertake a project.
Publication of glossy brochures notwithstanding, the only success it has to its credit relates to the replication of some imported products (commonly called ‘reverse engineering’ and ‘indigenisation’).
Uninspiring Track Record of DRDO
Raised in 1958 by the amalgamation of the then existing establishments, it has grown into a giant with a network of more than 50 laboratories and over 5000 scientists and about 25,000 technical/support personnel. Although raised exclusively to develop defence systems for the Indian armed forces, it has assumed the self-assigned responsibility to ‘make India prosperous by establishing world class science and technology base’. Further, its mission statement includes ‘development of infrastructure and committed quality manpower and building of strong indigenous technology base’. Resultantly, over the years, DRDO has lost its focus and diluted its commitment to the services.
During its history of over five decades, DRDO has not developed single equipment in the promised time-frame and conforming to the accepted parameters. There are three primary reasons that have led to this sad state – lack of accountability, lack of focus and failure to develop scientific disposition.
Publication of glossy brochures notwithstanding, the only success it has to its credit relates to the replication of some imported products (commonly called ‘reverse engineering’ and ‘indigenisation’). Though it has been subjected to a lot of censure, no attempt has been made to initiate radical reforms to make DRDO deliver.
To deflect mounting criticism for its failure to develop high tech systems, DRDO has resorted to delving in totally unrelated and infructuous areas. Some of such activities are as follows:-
DRDO’s inability to deliver is not because of shortage of time. It is because of its sheer incompetence.
- The Defence Institute of Bio-Energy Research (DIBER), Haldwani is spending money and time in the development of stress tolerant vegetable varieties/hybrids, herbal products and Angora rabbit. Among its achievement are development of hybrid varieties of capsicum, cucumber, tomato and garlic. It is also working to improve the quality of mushrooms and earthworms for vermi-composting.
- The work of Defence Institute of High Altitude Research, Leh includes basic research for productivity enhancement in vegetable cultivation; exploitation of high altitude plant wealth for herbal products; and conservation and upgradation of local unproductive animal population.
- The thrust areas of Defence Research Laboratory, Tezpur include integrated control measures for weeds and pests; utilization of bio-diversity of the area for vector borne diseases and other ailments; mushroom production, vermin-compost and organic farming for health and hygiene; and bio-diesel from micro-algae. The laboratory prides itself for having identified the sharpest chilli in the world.
- Defence Food Research Laboratory, Mysore carries out studies in the development of convenience foods, preservation of foods, food safety, food packaging, and studies in the spoilage of foods and safety of processed foods. It claims production of ready to eat foods like frozen chicken shreds, stuffed mutton rolls, frozen peas, besan-burfi, stabilised chikki and canned upma.
- Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences at Delhi has developed customised yoga packages for army, navy and air force.
It hurts to learn that scarce defence funds are being squandered away on projects that have little direct relevance. For example, a huge variety of packed/pre-cooked food is available in the market. Where is the need for DRDO to fritter away its time, effort and resources trying to develop besan-barfi and upma? Similarly, is it for DRDO to evolve yoga regimen for soldiers? There are numerous yoga centres of excellence to which the task can be outsourced, if required. Such extraneous activities dilute DRDO’s focus.