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Glass ceiling is broken in year that gave boost to defence manufacturing

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New Delhi: The Make in India initiative got a huge push with Russia agreeing to manufacture upwards of 200 light helicopters in India, a move that once again made it India’s top supplier of military hardware while purchases worth over Rs.2 lakh crore ($30 billion) were also approved.

The year saw a glass ceiling being broken with the Indian Air Force’s decision to allow women into the fighter stream while the Indian Navy submitted a proposal for inducting women as surveillance pilots.

At the same time, going ahead with its new “offensive-defensive” policy, India launched a first-of-its kind surgical operation, attacking terror camps along the India-Myanmar border.

The year also witnessed diversification in India’s defence partners, with the US entering the field prominently in the beginning of the year. France was also in the limelight due to the still-to-be-concluded deal for 36 Rafale combat jets. Russia, however, reemerged as the key partner at the fag end of the year following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit. Russia, accounting for 70 percent of India’s arms imports in the 2010-14 period, will build the Kamov Ka-226 helicopters in India and will also fabricate 12 new nuclear reactors at two sites.

The year began with US President Barack Obama being the chief guest at the Republic Day parade and this was followed by a new Defence Framework Agreement being signed in June.

The two sides also agreed to pursue projects that will offer tangible opportunities for American defence industries to build a partnership with the Indian industries including manufacturing under the Make in India initiative.

On the acquisition front, a Request for Proposal (RFP) was cleared for six more Scorpene submarines under the P75 Project for around Rs.80,000 crore. This will add to the six that are currently being built at Mumbai’s Mazagon Dock Ltd.

The Indian Army got clearance to buy 145 BaE Systems M777 ultra-light howitzers for Rs. 2,900 crore through the Foreign Military Sales route.

This apart, a new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) gives priority to indigenous products.

The defence ministry has said it has got a “positive response” from both within the country and globally – from countries like Israel, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the US – to the Make in India initiative. Since its launch some 18 months ago, 61 companies have obtained 81 Industrial Licences (ILs) for manufacturing of various defence equipment.

On his part, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar set an ambitious target of achieving 50 percent indigenisation by 2017, and up to 60-70 percent in next five years.

In Parrikar’s words, the mission in expediting defence procurement is also about changing a “mindset of mistrust” that he said developed over the last ten years.

And, in an important step targeting speedy indigenisation, the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) limit was raised from 26 percent to 49 percent through approval route. Proposals above this would be considered on a case-to-case basis.

Also, the defence products list for the purpose of industrial licencing was substantively shortened and notified, as was a defence exports strategy for faster clearances.

Interaction with industry was identified as a key area for pushing the domestic defence sector, and a Make in India website was launched for it, promising replies to queries in three days.

The private sector figured significantly in big-ticket deals.

The fag end of the year saw Boeing and Tata Advanced Systems announcing a joint venture to manufacture aerostructures for aircraft and collaborate on integrated systems while the Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group signed an agreement with Russia’s AlmazAntey to work jointly on a range of air defence missile and radar systems for the Indian defence forces.

As for the western border, 2015 saw a decline in infiltrations to 92 (till September 30) from 264 in 2012 and 221 in 2014.

A number of joint exercises were witnessed. The Indian Army engaged in counter-terrorism and humanitarian aid exercise ‘Hand in Hand’ with China, Indra with Russia, and Yudh Abhyas with the US.

The Indian Air Force participated in Indradhanush-IV with the Royal Air Force and in a drill with the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

The Indian Navy engaged with France in exercise Varuna off Goa, SIMBEX with Singapore, Ausindex with Australia and Malabar with the US and Japan.

Indian Navy vessels also visited several countries for port calls and other engagements with Egypt, Iran, Israel, Japan, the Philippines, Qatar, South Korea, Spain, the UAE and Vietnam.

The defence ministry announced a long-awaited One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme, which takes 2013 as the base year and takes the average of the upper and lower pensions of a rank to fix new pensions, also protecting those who are above the average. Revisions will take place every five years. The veterans, however, continued their agitation, stating that the government scheme is not true to the definition of OROP. (IANS, Anjali Ojha), (image courtesy: upload.wikimedia.org)

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Will India be able to travel in the Bullet Train Soon? Yes, Say Railway Officials; Indian Railways Target Completing the Project Before the August 2022 Deadline

The foundation stone for the Rs 1.08 lakh crore ($17 billion) 508-km Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train was laid in Ahmedabad by Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on September 14

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Bullet Train
Railway Board Chairman held a high-level meeting in Rail Bhavan last Thursday which was attended by Japanese Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu, and Niti Aayog Vice Chairman. (representative image) Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 10, 2017 : Unfazed by opposition criticism, Indian Railways is working overtime to push ahead with the much-talked about the “Bullet Train” project, aiming to complete it ahead of the August 2022 deadline set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani, who has a reputation of a turnaround man, has taken up the task of monitoring and chairing the periodic review meetings of the project that is estimated to cost over Rs 1 lakh crore ($15 billion).

Lohani held a high-level meeting in Rail Bhavan last Thursday which was attended by Japanese Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar, Central government officials, Principal Secretary-rank officials of Gujarat and Maharashtra, officials of NHSRCL (National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited), officials of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the General Manager of Western Railway.

A senior railway board member, requesting anonymity, told IANS, “The railways is in no mood to delay the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project. Lohani will now hold a review meeting once every three months… And even on weekly basis, if required.”

Emphasising on the government’s intention, the official said, “The attendance of the Niti Aayog Vice Chairman, the Japanese Ambassador and the CRB in the review meeting is a clear signal that the government is taking the project seriously and there is no scope for any delay.”

“The CRB wants Indian Railway officials to take lessons from their Japanese counterparts about meeting deadlines,” he said.

The opposition has attacked the government for taking up a project at a huge cost instead of focusing on safety, a dire need of the time, and on schemes to improve passenger amenities.

The official said it was also decided at the meeting that “a road map for consultancy and civil engineering works will be prepared by January 2018”.

A ministry official associated with the Bullet Train project said a report on the signalling system and electrical reports would be ready by April 2018. According to him, the tracks and most of the signalling system would be brought from Japan.

The foundation stone for the Rs 1.08 lakh crore ($17 billion) 508-km Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train was laid in Ahmedabad by Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on September 14.

Of the Rs 1.08 lakh crore, Japan is giving a loan of Rs 88,000 crore at a minimal interest of 0.1 per cent for 50 years. And the repayment will begin only after 15 years.

The railway official said that to encourage the Prime Minister’s ambitious ‘Make in India’ programme, “an appeal will be made to Indian and Japanese companies to make use the opportunity to work together”.

Meanwhile, the officials of the government of Maharashtra and Gujarat assured the railways of their help in land acquisition and smooth shifting of raw materials to construction venues.

A three-level monitoring committee was also constituted, including the Vice Chairman of Niti Ayog and Special Advisor to Japanese Prime Minister.

A working group led by Managing Director of NHSRCL Achal Khare and consisting of representatives of the ministries concerned, and the representative of JICA, has been formed. Besides the two committees, a technical expert committee led by the Managing Director of NHSRCL has also been formed.

Of the 508 km stretch, 92 per cent (468 km) of the route will be elevated, six per cent (27 km) will be in tunnels and the remaining two per cent (13 km) will be on the ground .

The high-speed train would also pass through the country’s longest tunnel of 21 km, of which seven km will be under the sea.

Twelve stations have been proposed that include Mumbai, Thane, Virar, Boisar, Vapi, Bilimora, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati.

The distance will be covered in two hours and seven minutes if the train stops at four stations — Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Mumbai. If the train stops at all 12 stations, it will cover the distance in two hours and fifty-eight minutes.

According to Railway Ministry officials, the operating speed of the bullet train would be 320 kmph and the maximum speed would be 350 kmph.

 

(Editorial note : This article has been written by Anand K. Singh and was first published by IANS. Anand can be contacted at can be contacted at anand.s@ians.in)

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With 100% FDI, Narendra Modi calls Food Sector a Priority in Make in India Programme

Modi said India with its rich legacy of spices could provide solutions and offer a win-win partnership as the world was becoming increasingly averse to the use of artificial colours, chemicals and preservatives.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 3, 2017 : Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said the food sector that allows 100 per cent foreign investment was the priority in the government’s ambitious Make In India programme.

Launching a three-day global conference on the food industry here, Modi said food processing was an age old practice in India and simple, home-based techniques like fermentation had resulted in the creation of our famous pickles, papads, chutneys and murabbas that now excite both the elite and the masses across the world.

He said the government had taken a range of transformational initiatives to make the country most preferred investment destination in this sector.

It is priority sector in our ‘Make in India’ programme. 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment is now permitted for trading including through e-commerce of food products manufactured or produced in India, Modi told the World Food India conference that will see the participation of over 2,000 delegates from 200 companies from some 30 countries.

Apart from representatives of 28 states, it will also see participation of 18 ministerial and business delegations, nearly 50 global CEOs along with heads of all leading domestic food processing companies.

Modi said a single-window facilitation cell provided hand-holding for foreign investors and there were attractive fiscal incentives from the Union and state governments.

Loans to food and agro-based processing units and cold chains are classified under priority sector lending, making them easier and cheaper to obtain, the Prime Minister said.

Modi said the recently launched unique portal – Nivesh Bandhu (investor’s friend) – would bring together information on central and state government policies and incentives provided for the food processing sector.

He said private sector participation had increased in many segments of the value chain but sought more investment in contract farming, raw material sourcing and creating agri linkages.

There were opportunities in post-harvest management such as primary processing and storage, preservation infrastructure, cold chain and refrigerated transportation, the Prime Minister asserted.

There is immense potential for food processing and value addition, especially in niche areas such as organic and fortified foods.

Modi said India with its rich legacy of spices could provide solutions and offer a win-win partnership as the world was becoming increasingly averse to the use of artificial colours, chemicals and preservatives.

Modi said the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana aimed at creating world class food processing infrastructure was expected to leverage investment of $5 billion, benefit two million farmers and generate more than half a million jobs over the next three years.

Narendra Modi said the government was planning to link agro-processing clusters with production centres through Mega Food Parks, which will offer immense value proposition in crops such as potato, pineapple, oranges and apples.

Minister of Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal in her address said agreements worth $10 billion were expected to be signed during the three-day global event.

Our demand of food is set to double over the next five years. Being six largest food and grocery market in the world, India is a destination that merits global attention in the food sector.

She said there was a need to wage war on food waste to ensure adequate food for all and to avoid a food crisis as the world’s population was set to increase by 25 per cent and the demand for food by 50 per cent by 2050. (IANS)

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7 killed, after Mi-17 V5 an IAF Chopper Crashed in Arunachal

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IAF chopper Mi-17 v5
IAF chopper Mi-17 V5, at Yelhanka, Air Force Station. Wikimedia

Tawang, October 6:  Seven Indian Air Force personnel were killed after a Mi-17 V5, IAF Chopper Crashed in Arunachal Pradesh on Friday.

Tawang district Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar Meena said the IAF Chopper Crashed around 6.30 a.m. killing all the seven people on board.

The chopper was on a routine Air Maintenance Mission, Meena quoted a Defence officer as saying.

The crash site is located at some four-to-five hours drive from Tawang. “It is a forested area,” Meena said adding that the bodies are being brought to the helipad near Tawang.

“We are told that there were no civilians and all were defence personnel,” he said.

Earlier in July an Indian Air Force chopper engaged in a flood rescue mission crashed near Papum Pare district in the hill state killing four persons including three IAF crew and one India Reserve Battalion (IRB) personnel.

The frequently changing weather condition in Arunachal Pradesh makes flying of choppers difficult in the area and there have been several incidents of crashes in the hill state in the past.

The then Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Dorjee Khandu, and four others also died in an IAF Chopper Crashed in the hill state in 2011. (IANS)