WE ARE IN A POSITION TO CREATE DIGITAL ECONOMIC MAP OF INDIA IN MARITIME DOMAIN: NAVY VICE CHIEF - The Daily Guardian
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WE ARE IN A POSITION TO CREATE DIGITAL ECONOMIC MAP OF INDIA IN MARITIME DOMAIN: NAVY VICE CHIEF

Ashish Singh

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Vice Admiral G. Ashok Kumar, Vice Chief of Naval Staff, exclusively spoke to The Daily Guardian at the launch of ‘Defence Guardian’ website about Project 75 India, various naval operations, the progress of ‘aatmanirbharta’ in the Indian Navy and more. Excerpts:

Q. What are your thoughts on the defenceguardian.com launch?

A. The Indian Navy is known as the silence service and it is forums like these that help us to reach out to our countrymen and explain to them what we do day and night towards protecting maritime interests of the nation. I hope that defenceguardian.com achieves glory and huge success in the times to come. I am aware that a lot of the Indian Naval officers write for your forum and I’m sure that will continue too.

Q. With the latest decision taken by the Defence Ministry in the maritime domain, Project 75 India has just been approved by the Defence Acquisition Council. It’s a huge project. How do you see this changing India’s maritime defence preparedness in the immediate future?

A. A couple of days back, the DAC approved the strategic partnership model of Project 75 India which is a long-awaited approval for us. This is the first strategic partnership (SP) model approval that we have received and it’s a huge step. With the SP model being new, the whole process has been through many fits and starts. But finally, the big plus is that this is not the first time India would be constructing submarines. We have had the SSKs constructed in the late 1980s and the early 1990s and now as you are aware, the Kalvari class, the Project 75 India with NG and the MDL is being built, and three MDL submarines have been commissioned already. But the big difference here is that this is not something like a licence production, this is more of a technology transfer. So what it enables us is that in the future we will be able to design our submarines as well as construct, refit, repair, and maintain them forever. Strategically speaking, our dependence on some international original equipment manufacturer (OEM) will come to an end with this. This whole facility will be available in the country in the future. 

Q. Talking about the SP model, when we look at the next projects, what, in your opinion, could be the next project of the Indian Navy that could be approved by the MoD and DAC under the SP model?

A. As I see, the Indian Navy took up two cases under the SP model, the other one is the Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH). As you are aware, we have come down a long way in progressing that case too. We are just waiting for the acceptance by the DAC of the list of strategic partners and the OEMs that have been shortlisted with the new process. Once that happens, it will follow the same procedure as we are following with Project 75 India. I hope that the next SP model project for the Indian Navy would be NUH.

Q. We have been hearing a lot about the ‘aatmanirbharta’ and Make in India aspects of defence. What is the actual on-ground situation? How is the Atmanirbharta in defence progressing on-ground, specifically for the Indian Navy?

A. In a big way, let me assure you that I think this is the right call for each of us to take forward ‘aatmanirbhata’ and not depend upon external sources, this can always be a strategic strength for the country. The Indian Navy has been at this for many decades now. With the current policies in place, it’s only got a much-needed fillip. The positive indigenisation list, the first one was announced in August last year with 101 items in it and just recently, we had the promulgation of the second list as well. For these, we will not be going abroad to procure from any OEM here and after as the country has developed the capability. Also, our shipbuilding is almost entirely Indian. The Indian Navy currently has about 41 ships in order, with just two of them being built somewhere else. Rest all of them including an aircraft carrier which is at Cochin Shipyard limited with excellent destroyers is being constructed in the Mazagon Dock limited, Frigettes (Project 17 Alphas) is being constructed both at GRC and MDL and many different types of ships are being constructed all over the country. We have achieved a sense of self-reliance when it comes to shipbuilding within the country. 

The Defence Minister launched the Naval Indigenisation Innovation Organisation (NIIO) last year and that has given us a huge amount of fillip. The Indian Navy is building a relationship with industry and academia. On the launch day with the Defence Minister and the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in attendance, we signed MOUs with the Society for Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM). We also ended up signing MOUs with Raksha Shakti University (RSU) Gujarat and the makers at Cochin. We have gone on to set up Chairs of Excellence in leading universities in the country including a couple of IITs, the SRM University, Chennai and the RSU, Gujarat. Also, we intend to host annual seminars with industry and academia. We have also started an initiative Indian Naval Student Technical Education Programme (INSTEP). It is an internship programme for children who are doing engineering in various universities with whom we have signed MoUs. So this internship will help us provide them with a certain amount of projects for the benefit of the nation. I think indigenisation is the way ahead and the Navy is fully invested in the process. 

Q. The country has just started coming out of the second wave but the Indian Navy’s role can’t be forgotten. It includes the mammoth operation of launching Oxygen Express and the efforts that were put in by the Indian Navy to help our state governments and the Centre.  Also, through the coordination between multiple other Navies and the countries where the Indian Navy ships were deployed and several oxygen cylinders and concentrators were brought and oxygen supplies were ensured. How big was this operation in terms of the number of ships and how was it coordinated and executed? Did it require just the intra-country coordination with the MEA or the inter-country coordination? Did you speak to foreign Navies?

A. Our contribution to the problem of the lack of oxygen and the requirement of medical equipment for our countrymen in these tough times of the second wave of Covid-19 was heartening. We did a lot through the Samudra Setu 2 operation, deployed 11 ships in the length and breadth of our entire region starting to the west whether it was Qatar, Kuwait, UAE or to the east we went up to Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore. A considerable amount of effort was put into getting Liquid Medical Oxygen. We carried back over 1000 metric tonnes of LMO. We also carried over 5000 oxygen cylinders, the list is huge. It was an intergovernmental initiative. The MEA did a lot of tying up for various requirements that needed to be met for our countrymen and we promptly acted in response to that to ferry whatever was required for our countrymen.

Q. During the first wave, the Indian Navy did another major operation wherein the Indian citizens, who were stuck abroad due to the lockdown and actions of other countries to contain the pandemic, were evacuated by the Indian Naval ships. How difficult and big was this operation and how the coordination was done?

A. Samudra Setu 1 operation was conducted during the first wave where our countrymen had to be brought back to India. There were eight sorties conducted and we brought back nearly 4,000 Indian citizens from various countries like Maldives, Sri Lanka and Iran. Those were challenging times, to deploy a ship with the threat of Covid-19 affecting the crew and bringing back people when you are not too sure whether there is an infected person in the group of people being brought back to the country. It was a huge challenge and was done extremely well by the three commands, west, east, and south. Ships that were mainly used were the LSTs and the LPD Jalashwa.

Q. Since you mentioned Samudra Setu 1 and Samudra Setu 2, there is another project Sagar that I feel is the pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as far as the maritime domain is concerned. How is Sagar progressing on-ground, and what have its achievements been so far for the country?

A. Our Prime Minister’s vision of security and growth for all in the region or what is called Sagar is a great initiative. The Navy is fully involved in ensuring security and growth for all in the region as by and large the threats are maritime when it comes to trade and whatever we are getting over the seas. So there is a considerable amount of interaction that the Indian Navy undertakes with our friendly nations in the maritime neighbourhood. There are lots of initiatives in fighting sub-conventional threats. The IFC-IOR was a great initiative that has helped us interact with almost all the countries in this region and develop comprehensive maritime domain awareness as firstly knowing what is out there enables you to intervene in some threat that may build up. Also, many countries may not adequately have the capacity to undertake patrols and so on. The Indian Navy coordinates patrol for such countries. We carry out along the international maritime boundary line or the coordinated patrol with those countries with all our maritime neighbours. 

When the Covid crisis happened we took it on as a responsibility to be of assistance to our maritime neighbours. It is not only in good times that you are friendly with your neighbours but the actual test is when the crisis hits. When the Covid situation was upon us we codenamed that as Sagar and initiated several missions. Four sorties were undertaken. We not only provided medical help but also Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) as a lot of countries required essentials for day to day living, all that was catered for on behalf of our Ministry of External Affairs and the government. The Indian Navy did a lot of running around between our neighbouring countries to cater for them. Sagar 1 catered to the island territories of Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Comoros, and Madagascar. Sagar 2 catered to several African countries, and during Sagar 3, we went east to Vietnam and Cambodia. Sagar 4 was undertaken by Jalashwa back to Comoros and Madagascar with medical teams and 1000 tonnes of rice to each of these countries. Now we are also planning Sagar 5 and Sagar 6 that will happen soon at the request of the MEA. I think when it comes to security and growth for all in the region, the first requirement is a friendly attitude towards each other and the Indian Navy has done a lot in ensuring that the maritime domain remains safe and secure and we have maritime friendliness across the region.

Q. A question that is troubling many pandemic affected countries is the economy. Talking about the Indian economy, what has been the Navy’s plan, vision, and how has the execution been done as far as the Indian Navy’s efforts for Blue Economy is concerned?

A. A total of 4% of our GDP is expected out of the Blue Economy and this will be a significant contributor for us to rise to a $5 trillion economy in due course. The National Maritime policy drafted by Niti Aayog and the framework for Blue Economy policy drafted by the Economic Advisory council are articulations of an overall policy on how to handle this. The Indian Navy has a huge role in it as well because, at the end of the day, I dare say nobody else would have as much knowledge of the domain as the Navy would have as we are continuously operating in the domain. The threats are all transnational so how we react has got to be multinational in character. That’s one of the reasons why the Navy does so many interactions with the neighbouring countries whether it is bilateral exercises, the CORPATs and the patrols, so on and so forth. We also have the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) in which all of us get together. Similarly, be it the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), or the newly promulgated Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), the Indian Navy plays a major role in these. When it comes to the Blue Economy, marine special planning is the starting point. When it comes to marine special planning, having the requisite data is crucial. The Navy collects a whole lot of data but several agencies in the country collate other special data. The Indian Navy has entered into MoUs with all these agencies and we now have a collation of data collected with any agency in the country. So I think we are in a position to create what I call a digital economic map of India in the maritime domain. That will help us plan better which I feel will be a contribution where the Navy will be very useful. The Navy’s sole charter is overall maritime security including offshore and coastal security. And the Navy’s fundamental task is the protection of our maritime interests. The moment we start investing in Blue Economic initiatives, the maritime interest will gallop and thus, the responsibility entrusted to the Navy in protecting them is bound to increase. So the consciousness of security when planning such maritime Blue Economy projects will be immensely helpful. That is where I feel the Navy will be fully involved.

Our contribution to the problem of the lack of oxygen and the requirement of medical equipment for our countrymen in these tough times of the second wave of Covid-19 was heartening. We did a lot through the Samudra Setu 2 operation, deployed 11 ships in the length and breadth of our entire region starting to the west whether it was Qatar, Kuwait, UAE or to the east we went up to Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore. A considerable amount of effort was put into getting Liquid Medical Oxygen. We carried back over 1000 metric tonnes of LMO. We also carried over 5000 oxygen cylinders, the list is huge. It was an intergovernmental initiative. The MEA did a lot of tying up for various requirements that needed to be met for our countrymen and we promptly acted in response to that to ferry whatever was required for our countrymen.

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Defence

MOD APPROVES RS 498.8 CRORE BUDGETARY SUPPORT FOR DEFENCE INNOVATION THROUGH IDEX-DIO

Ashish Singh

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has approved the budgetary support of Rs 498.8 crore to Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) – Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) for the next five years. The budgetary support will provide a big boost to the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as iDEX–DIO has the primary objective of self-reliance and indigenisation in defence & aerospace sector of the country. The creation of the iDEX framework and establishment of the DIO by the Department of Defence Production (DDP) is aimed at creating an ecosystem to foster innovation and technology development in defence and aerospace by engaging Industries including MSMEs, start-ups, individual innovators, R&D institutes & academia and provide them grants/funding and other support to carry out R&D development which has good potential for future adoption for Indian defence and aerospace needs.

The scheme, with budgetary support of Rs 498.8 crore for the next five years, is aimed at providing financial support to nearly 300 start-ups/MSMEs/individual innovators and 20 partner incubators under the DIO framework. It will support increased awareness in the Indian innovation ecosystem about defence needs and, conversely, in the Indian Defence establishment about the potential of the Indian innovation eco-system to deliver innovative solutions to meet their needs. The DIO, with its team, will enable the creation of channels for innovators to engage and interact with the Indian Defence production industry. The long-term effect to be realised by the group is the establishment of a culture, where enlisting the effort of innovators by the Indian military is commonplace and frequent. The scheme aims to facilitate rapid development of new, indigenised and innovative technologies for the Indian defence and aerospace sector to meet their needs in shorter timelines; create a culture of engagement with innovative start-ups to encourage co-creation for defence and aerospace; empower a culture of technology co-creation and co-innovation within the defence and aerospace sector and boost innovation among the start-ups and encourage them to be a part of the ecosystem.

The DDP will release funds to DIO for setting up and managing the iDEX network in the form of Partner Incubators (PIs); communicating with innovators/start-ups/technology centres of MSMEs through the PIs including the PIs of Department of Science and Technology regarding defence and aerospace needs; organising various challenges/hackathons to shortlist potential technologies and entities and evaluating technologies and products developed by innovators/start-ups in terms of their utility and impact on the defence and aerospace setup. The other activities include enabling and funding pilots using innovation funds dedicated to the purpose; interfacing with the Armed Forces top brass about key innovative technologies and encouraging their adoption into the defence establishment with suitable assistance; facilitating scale-up, indigenisation and integration in manufacturing facilities for successfully piloted technologies and organising outreach activities all across the country.

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PASSING OUT PARADE OF TES-37 COURSE HELD AT COLLEGE OF MILITARY ENGINEERING

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The passing out parade of the cadets of the Technical Entry Scheme—37 Course at the Cadets Training Wing, College of Military Engineering (CME) at Pune—was held on Saturday. The parade was reviewed by Lt Gen PP Malhotra, Commandant CME. Thirty-three Gentlemen Cadets of the Course, including three gentlemen cadets from Bhutan and two from Sri Lanka, were commissioned as officers.

Though parents of the passing out course could not attend the ceremony owing to COVID related restrictions, the parade was streamed live on YouTube. Lt Gen PP Malhotra, presented several awards to Gentlemen Cadets for excellence in training. The parade conducted with traditional military regalia, was commanded by Wing Cadet Captain Abhishek Chauhan. The coveted General Officer Commanding in Chief Army Training Command Gold Medal for standing first in overall performance in three years at CTW was awarded to Wing Cadet Adjutant Sahil Kumar. The Silver and Bronze Medal was awarded to Gentlemen Cadet Sonam Tshering from the Royal Bhutan Army and Wing Cadet Quarter Master Prince Kumar Singh respectively. Cadets of the Wing also had the distinction of being awarded the Commandant Officers Training Academy Silver medal to Wing Cadet Captain Abhishek Singh Chauhan and the Bronze Medal to Wing Cadet Adjutant Sahil Kumar for their meritorious performance in the combined four years of training, including one year at the Officers Training Academy, Gaya. Echo Platoon was awarded the General Officer Commanding in Chief’s Banner for performing exceedingly well in the Inter Platoon Competitions and emerging as the Champion Platoon.

Addressing the parade, the General Officer congratulated the Gentlemen Cadets for their superlative performance in the training period at the wing and their immaculate parade. Lt General PP Malhotra, highlighted that the cadets were at the cusp of a new beginning as young military leaders, and on their broad shoulders lay the future of our gallant Army. He urged the future officers to make their nation and the Alma Mater proud by rendering selfless and honourable service. He also stressed on imbibing strong moral values and ethics. The passing out parade was followed by a Commissioning and an oath taking ceremony for the newly commissioned officers.

College of Military Engineering has emerged as the finest technical institutions in the Indian Army. Recent forays of the College into Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Engineering Materials have been lauded by all. The college has entered into MoU with academic and industrial majors to absorb best engineering practices and infuse a culture of innovation in the Indian Army. Several projects from the College have been displayed and awarded in forums such as the iDEX4Fauji and the Army Day Parade, this year.

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INDIAN COAST GUARD ADDS TEETH TO ITS AVIATION ARM

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NEW DELHI: In line with the PM’s vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat, Dr Ajay Kumar, Defence Secretary, inducted Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) Mk-III in Indian Coast Guard (ICG). The state-of-the-art helicopters are indigenously designed and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bengaluru. The maiden ceremony was carried out through digital means, keeping Covid protocol at fore and promoting GoI’s vision of ‘Digital India’. Indian Coast Guard Director General K Natarajan, Mr R Madhavan, CMD, HAL and MoD officials were among those who attended the event. Dr Ajay Kumar in his address praised the perseverance of the ICG and M/s HAL by inducting these helicopters in testing times and progressing our Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Make in India’. He also brought out the importance of having these advanced helicopters for ICG to operate them across the spectrum of Coast Guard operations.

The ALH Mk-III marine version has been designed and developed with in-house customisation of 19 additional equipment by HAL to meet ICG requirements. HAL will supply 16 ALH Mk-III to the ICG by the mid of next year. The helicopter is capable of undertaking embarked operations from ships which will enhance Coast Guard capabilities towards Sea air co-ordinated search, interdiction capabilities, Coastal Security, Search and Rescue operations, medical evacuation,Humanitarian missions, Pollution response missions, etc. While appreciating ICG for the recently conducted successful operations of drugs & arms seizure and saving lives during cyclones Tauktae & YAAS, Defence Secretary said the capacity and capability augmentation of the service needs to be materialised in a time bound manner considering the onerous responsibilities bestowed on ICG by the GoI.

On induction, the 16 ALH Mk-III will be positioned at 4 Coast Guard squadrons at Bhubaneshwar, Porabandar, Kochi and Chennai. The shared maritime boundaries with littoral states are highly susceptible to illegal activities and the regions are prone to frequent cyclones.These squadrons with embarked operations will ensure seamless surveillance and provide assistance to fishermen in distress at sea. Director General K Natarajan while acknowledging the efforts of Tatrakshaks for recent concurrent successful operations said that ICG is as prepared as ever to discharge its duties and induction of ALH Mk-III will usher a new paradigm shift in our capability to undertake ship borne operations and enhance surveillance prowess with extended reach. He also brought out that these helicopters will be deployed in a coordinated matrix along with ships and aircraft to strengthen the service capabilities in Area of Responsibility and beyond. Speaking on the occasion, Mr R Madhavan said with this contract, HAL is embarking on a new journey of Performance Based Logistics (PBL). The PBL will assure desired levels of availability of ALH MKIII fleet of ICG for six and half years, a unique feature of this contract and a first of its kind in HAL. These helicopters are equipped with state of the art equipment like Surveillance Radar, Electro Optic Pod, Medical Intensive Care Unit, High Intensity Search Light, SAR Homer, Loud Hailer, Machine Gun and can perform other key roles. Helicopter MRO Division is the nodal agency for execution of PBL contract along with Engine Division and other Sister Divisions of HAL.

ABOUT PBL

The PBL will provide a One Stop Solution for maintenance of complete Helicopter, Engine and components which encompasses Helicopter/Engine Servicing Task, Rotable Repair Task (RRT), Repair & Maintenance Spares Order (RMSO) etc. As part of PBL, Helicopter MRO Division of HAL will be extending the support from four bases viz. Bhubaneswar, Porbandar, Chennai and Kochi. All necessary infrastructure, repair facility etc are set up at Bhubaneswar and Porbandar, dedicated LRU/ Rotable floats are stocked and On-site support team is identified towards ensuring the availability of Helicopters. Chennai & Kochi are in the final stages. In addition, HAL Aviation Maintenance Software (HAMS), a web based online platform is developed and deployed by Helicopter MRO Division for real time monitoring and operational visibility of fleet through a dedicated leased line network.

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INDIAN‌ ‌ARMY‌ ‌HANDS‌ ‌OVER‌ ‌MEDICAL‌ ‌EQUIPMENT‌ ‌TO‌ ‌NEPALI‌ ‌ARMY‌ ‌

Ashish Singh

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NEW DELHI: As part of its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, medical equipment and supplies worth Nepali Rupees 28.80 crore provided by the Indian Army were handed over to the Nepali Army on Friday. In a ceremony at Nepali Army Headquarters, Tundikhel today, the medical equipment was handed over by Ambassador Vinay Mohan Kwatra to General Purna Chandra Thapa, Chief of the Nepali Army. The ambassador reaffirmed India’s support to Nepali Army in its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and lauded its contribution in this respect.

The medical equipment, including Ventilators, Ambulances, ICU beds, PPE Kits, PCR test Kits etc was delivered to Kathmandu on 10 June 2021. The Indian Army has been assisting the Nepali

Army to fight Covid-19 through various kinds of assistance since last year, including 1 Lakh doses of Covishield vaccines which were provided in March 2021.

The latest assistance is another testament to the close cooperation between the two armies and the two countries, particularly in times of need.

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Defence Minister inaugurates BRO centres

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh dedicated to the nation two Centres of Excellence established by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) at Seema Sadak Bhawan in New Delhi on Friday. These Centres have been established to achieve excellence in road safety as well as foster growth in construction of roads, bridges, air fields and tunnels. The Centre of Excellence for Road Safety & Awareness (CoERSA) aims to create awareness about road safety through analysis sharing of road accidents and suggesting methods to save precious lives. The Centre of Excellence for Roads, Bridges, Air Fields and Tunnels (CoERBAT) focuses on institutionalising the knowledge gained over the years in development of almost 60,000 kilometres of roads, 56,000 metres of bridges, 19 airfields and four tunnels in the eastern and north-western part of the country.

Speaking on the occasion, Rajnath Singh appreciated the efforts of BRO in establishing the Centres of Excellence, expressing confidence that they will play a pivotal role in saving precious lives. Terming road accidents as a silent pandemic that claims approx. 1.5 lakh lives every year, the Raksha Mantri stated that the Government has taken a number of initiatives such as National Road Safety Policy, Motor Vehicle Act 2020 and identification of black spots on national highways to tackle the problem and the setting up of these Centres is another step in that direction. The Raksha Mantri lauded the crucial role played by BRO in the progress of the nation since its inception by building roads, tunnels and other infrastructure in remote areas. He praised the efforts of BRO for working tirelessly in tough weather conditions to increase connectivity in border areas, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Describing connectivity as an essential component of a nation’s progress, he said BRO is catering to the needs of the Armed Forces as well as working towards the socio-economic development of the border areas. He made special mention of the recent achievements of BRO, including state-of-the-art construction of ‘Atal Tunnel, Rohtang’, Kailash Mansarovar Road and Zojila pass. He also appreciated BRO for raising awareness about road safety through innovative slogans and signboards. Rajnath Singh also listed out various measures taken by the Government for the development of BRO. These include increase in the budget of BRO, approval of special high-altitude clothing for the personnel as well as cadre review to boost the morale of the organisation. He assured BRO of continued support of Ministry of Defence, saying that the Government remains committed to the progress of the far-flung areas of the country. He also remembered the BRO personnel who laid down their lives in the service of the nation.

During the event, the Raksha Mantri also launched four software developed to optimise the work efficiency of BRO personnel, their HR management, recruitment management, enrolment and works management. The BRO has created the software to reduce paperwork, with focus on minimising the carbon footprint. Rajnath Singh termed the development of the software as a great example of ‘Self-reliant India’ and ‘Digital India’ campaigns. He stated that the software will further improve the efficiency of the organisation, modernise it and save time. The first ever Solo Woman Motorcycle Expedition by Ms Kanchan Ugursandi to Umling La Pass, Ladakh and back was also flagged off on the occasion. The Raksha Mantri extended his best wishes to Ms Kanchan Ugursandi and expressed confidence that she will come out with flying colours and complete the task by setting new records.

Earlier, DG Border Roads Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhry briefed Rajnath Singh on the initiatives and achievements of BRO in recent years. He informed the Raksha Mantri about the ongoing and future projects, with focus on AatmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He also informed Raksha Mantri on the awareness campaigns being carried out by BRO related to COVID-19 and Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav in far-flung areas. The DG Border Roads said BRO remains committed towards serving the nation and would bring all necessary changes to enhance the efficiency of the organisation. Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar were among the dignitaries present on the occasion.

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A LOOK AT DEFENCE MINISTRY’S 20 REFORMS IN 2020

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh released an e-booklet titled ’20 Reforms in 2020’, highlighting the major reforms undertaken by Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2020, in New Delhi earlier this week. The compilation provides a brief overview of defence reforms undertaken in the year 2020 by MoD to bring about greater cohesion and modernisation of the Armed Forces through policy changes, innovation and digital transformation. Reforms also focused on the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi; increased collaboration with the industry to boost defence exports; measures to accelerate defence acquisitions with greater transparency; digital transformation; strengthening of border infrastructure; increased participation of women in Armed Forces; transformation in R&D to boost innovation; expansion of NCC to remote locations and aid extended to the civil administration in fight against Covid-19. Raksha Rajya Mantri Shripad Y Naik, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, Chief of Army Staff General MM Naravane, Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar, Secretary (Ex-Servicemen Welfare) Mr. Ravikant, Secretary Department of Defence R&D and Chairman, Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) Dr G Satheesh Reddy and Financial Advisor (Defence Services) Mr. Sanjiv Mittal were present on the occasion.

Addressing the gathering, Rajnath Singh termed the E-booklet as an important document on the bright future of the defence sector in the country. “The booklet is a reflection of the resolve of the Government, under the able leadership of Prime Minister Modi, to make the defence sector stronger and more efficient,” he said. The Raksha Mantri expressed confidence that the reforms undertaken by MoD will make India a global powerhouse in the defence sector in the times to come.

20 REFORMS IN 2020

Chief of Defence Staff & Department of Military Affairs

The appointment of India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and creation of Department of Military Affairs (DMA) were among the major decisions taken by the Government. The post of CDS was created to increase efficiency & coordination among the Armed Forces and reduce duplication, while DMA was established to ensure improved civil-military integration. General Bipin Rawat was appointed as the first CDS who also fulfils the responsibilities of Secretary, DMA.

AATMANIRBHARTA IN DEFENCE

To promote ‘Make in India’ in defence sector, a list of 101 defence items was notified in August 2020, while Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 was unveiled in September 2020. Rs 52,000 crore budget was earmarked for indigenously made defence equipment in 2020-21. Corporatisation of Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) was approved in May 2020 for greater efficiency and productivity. There was an unprecedented push towards new technology developments within India. Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) developed a ventilator in record time to meet Covid-19 requirements in May 2020.In November 2020, Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile, indigenously designed & developed DRDO, hit bullseye at medium range and medium height, while indigenously built Pinaka rocket system cleared test of 45-60 km range.

INCREASED DEFENCE EXPORTS

The increased partnership with the private sector has led to a substantial rise in defence exports. The value of total defence exports rose from Rs 1,941 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 9,116 crore in 2019-20. Also, for the first time, India figured in the list of defence equipment exporting nations, as the exports expanded to more than 84 countries.

MODERNISATION & INCREASED TRANSPARENCY IN DEFENCE ACQUISITION

In highest-ever thrust towards modernisation in last 10 years, there was 10 per cent budget increase in 2020-21 over the previous year. Policy reforms for increased transparency included launch of new Defence Acquisition Procedure in September 2020 and revision of DRDO Procurement Manual in October 2020. To encourage start-ups, a provision was introduced for procurement as Buy Indian-IDDM, while leasing for non-mission critical requirements was introduced for the first time.

DEFENCE ACQUISITIONS

First five Rafale fighter aircraft arrived in India in July 2020 and several more since then, adding firepower to the arsenal of the Indian Air Force. Despite the COVID-19 challenge, the aircraft were delivered timely and inducted into IAF.

REFORMING DEFENCE R&D

To promote innovation by young minds, five Young Scientists Laboratories of DRDO were launched in 2020 in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. DRDO has joined hands with the private sector in design & development and identified 108 Systems & Subsystems for the industry to design, develop and manufacture.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

For the first time, several organisations of Ministry of Defence went digital. Directorate General Quality Assurance (DGQA) started online Pre-Delivery inspection in May 2020 to address security threats, while Armed Forces Tribunal began digital hearing for the first time in August 2020. Defence Estates, Canteen Stores Department, services in Cantonment, MoD Pension and National Cadet Corps (NCC) also went online providing faster and transparent services.

STRENGTHENING BORDER INFRASTRUCTURE

Reforms of processes and workflows within Border Roads Organisation (BRO) enabled it to achieve targets ahead of schedule, in some instances. World’s longest Atal tunnel above 10,000 feet, at Rohtang on the Leh-Manali Highway was inaugurated by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in October 2020. It provides all weather connectivity to the northern borders. Zojila pass, situated on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway, was opened almost a month ahead of schedule in April 2020.

STREE SHAKTI IN ARMED FORCES

In 2020, Ministry of Defence took some historic decisions to increase participation of women in the Armed Forces. Ten streams of Indian Army were opened for giving Permanent Commission to Short Service Commission (SSC) Women officers, while women pilots of Indian Navy were operationalised for the first time. All Sainik Schools were thrown open for girl students from academic session 2020-21.

REFORMS IN NCC

Expanding the reach of NCC to remote locations was a major announcement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the ramparts of Red Fort on Independence Day on August 15, 2020. More than 1,075 schools/colleges in border and coastal areas were identified and the enrolment began in November 2020. In another decision, it was decided to give preference to NCC cadets in employment in Central Armed Police Forces from May 2020. Youth Exchange Programme Allowance for NCC cadets was increased from Rs 100 per day to Rs 750 and the number of countries was increased from 10 to 15.

AID TO CIVIL ADMINISTRATION DURING COVID-19

Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces have mobilised resources to aid the civil administration in fight against COVID-19. Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) provided all emergency support to tide over the situation. They have mobilised doctors, health professionals and set up Quarantine facilities at several locations across the country. DRDO has set up several hospitals to treat COVID patients across the states, passed on technology expertise to manufacture ventilators, oxygen plants, medicines, test kits and PPE kits to private sector for mass production.

HELP BEYOND BOUNDARIES

The Armed Forces extended a helping hand to the countries in distress. Indian Navy mounted eight relief missions during 2020-21. Besides evacuating stranded Indians from Iran, Sri Lanka and Maldives under Vande Bharat Mission, Indian Naval ships provided Covid-19 medical relief, including medicines and doctors, to five countries. INS Airavat provided 270 MT food aid to Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea struck by natural calamities. The Indian Coast Guard led the rescue operation to save Sri Lanka coast of its biggest oil spill. Indian Air Force carried out over 800 relief missions during 2020-21.

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