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North India States Laggards; Urgent Policy Initiatives Needed

The urgent need for policy initiatives by state governments to encourage defence manufacturing and make India self reliant in the field was underscored in a conference on “Opportunities for MSMEs in the Defence Manufacturing Ecosystem in North India”, organised at the CII Northern Region headquarters here on Tuesday.

Sadly, none of the state governments in the region was even represented in the conference. Does this ring a bell!

Various speakers in the inaugural session highlighted that while other states, including Uttar Pradesh in our neighbourhood, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu, are striding ahead in a competitive effort to corner a lion’s share of the rapidly growing defence manufacturing industry in the country, Punjab, which was once the hub of innovation and manufacturing in machinery and tools industry, is lagging far behind.

North India States Laggards; Urgent Policy Initiatives Needed, Lifeinchd

Photos By : Life In Chandigarh & CII Northern Region

The conference was organized by CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) Northern Region and Headquarters, Western Command, in association with DRDO (Defence Research & Development Organisation), TBRL (Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory), 3 BRD (Base Repair Depot) of Indian Air Force, and Headquarters, Northern Command. MSME (Micro Small and Medium Enterprises) vendors from across the region participated in the conference.

Addressing the gathering, Western Army commander Lt. Gen. Nav K. Khanduri said among the key learnings from the hostilities on our Northern borders in the last couple of years has been the urgency for self reliance in weaponry and defence systems, preparedness for sustaining through a long drawn out conflict, and capacity building to achieve these two goals.

Highlighting the crucial role of the MSME sector in helping maintain and sustain the country’s 70% legacy defence equipments during their life period, and upgrading the not so technologically advanced defence systems, especially in the light of the disruptions in the international supply chains, he said the recent positive changes made in the government’s policy for defence manufacturing and procurement to encourage indigenous industry is a step in the right direction.

Expressing confidence that these initiatives will go a long way in the country achieving self reliance in defence manufacturing in the coming years, he however stated that for this to happen funding for R&D efforts will have to increase, manufacturing base needs to be expanded, quality assurance has to receive top priority, and industry needs to be supported and hand-holding done wherever required.

Considering the rapid technological advancements in modern warfare, the indigenous defence industry also needs to go hi-tech as the armed forces would need to induct more and more niche technologies to stay ahead in the race, he asserted.

Vikram Sahgal, Chairman MSME Committee SIDM (Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers), who is also MD, Micron Instruments Pvt Ltd., a long time defence supplier, categorically stated that the northern states have lagged behind in defence production and need to urgently take policy initiatives to boost the private sector in defence.

In his address, Lt. Gen. KJ Singh (Retd), former Western Army Commander, and Convenor of the defence think tank ‘Gyan Setu’, gave examples from his personal military experience of the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation in Punjab and reinforced the demand for urgent policy initiatives by the state government to revive that spirit to make the state a hub for defence equipment manufacturing.

Maj. Gen. PK Saini, Principal Advisor, SIDM, expressed the view that the ‘screwdriver’ (just assembly) approach to technology by MSMEs is set to become a thing of the past. Measures are being put in place for validation of design and content by indigenous equipments manufacturers. He too called for policy initiatives by the state government to reverse the decline in the machinery and tools industry of Punjab and harness it for defence manufacturing.

Highlighting various research and innovation projects undertaken by the Panjab University Chandigarh, many of which have also won patents, its Vice Chancellor Prof Renu Vig stressed the need for MSMEs to more actively involve the higher education institutions and the academia in their design and innovation projects.

North India States Laggards; Urgent Policy Initiatives Needed, Lifeinchd

Speaking in another session on “Creating A Robust Defence Manufacturing Ecosystem”, moderated by Prateek Kishore, Outstanding Scientist & Director TBRL, Maj. Gen. CS Mann, Head, Army Design Bureau, shared mirthfully with the audience that as far as defence manufacturing is concerned a vast majority of MSMEs fall in a category of those who want to do something in the field but don’t know what to do.

North India States Laggards; Urgent Policy Initiatives Needed, Lifeinchd

North India States Laggards; Urgent Policy Initiatives Needed, Lifeinchd

North India States Laggards; Urgent Policy Initiatives Needed, Lifeinchd

He informed that for the benefit of all MSMEs, a compendium of 110 problem definition statements has been published mentioning also the primary contact and secondary contact in each case.

He suggested that the MSMEs visit the Ministry of Defence’s ‘srijandefence’ portal for detailed information and guidance, including complete list of items earmarked for indigenization/import substitution along with present progress status.

North India States Laggards; Urgent Policy Initiatives Needed, Lifeinchd

North India States Laggards; Urgent Policy Initiatives Needed, Lifeinchd

North India States Laggards; Urgent Policy Initiatives Needed, Lifeinchd

Group Captain Anand Karve, Chief of Planning, 3 BRD, talked about opportunities for SMSEs in the defence aviation field at 3 BRD, while Ram Prakash, Scientist ‘E’  and Additional Director, Directorate of Technology Development Fund (TDF), gave an overview of the TDF Fund scheme which the MSMEs can tap for their defence projects.

Former Scientist G at Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) HS Jattana suggested that the armed forces could adapt many of the technologies developed by ISRO to their requirement, like for example night vision technologies. They could also adopt the ISRO model of direct engagement with outsourcing vendors to ensure strict quality control standards, he added.

North India States Laggards; Urgent Policy Initiatives Needed, Lifeinchd

North India States Laggards; Urgent Policy Initiatives Needed, Lifeinchd

North India States Laggards; Urgent Policy Initiatives Needed, Lifeinchd

Prof Arun Grover, former Vice Chancellor, Panjab University, said to attract more funding from the central government universities and other institutions of higher learning in the region have no option but to prove themselves as being up to the mark in delivering on tangible solutions to make the country self reliant in various fields, including defence and other strategic areas. He advocated that they systematically work towards becoming the R&D arm of the entire MSME sector.

Former Deputy Chief of the Army Staff & Senior Advisor, DRDO Lt. Gen. JP Singh (retd) sought creation of centres of excellence in futuristic technologies like robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and quantum technology in and around places where DRDO or other laboratories offering state of the art testing facilities related to the respective fields are already available.

North India States Laggards; Urgent Policy Initiatives Needed, Lifeinchd

North India States Laggards; Urgent Policy Initiatives Needed, Lifeinchd

North India States Laggards; Urgent Policy Initiatives Needed, Lifeinchd

On the occasion, an exhibition of defence equipment and the latest technology was also organised where premier institutions of the region showcased items like tactical gear, medical equipment, drones and intelligence-gathering equipment. Indian Army also displayed for the benefit of the visiting MSMEs parts of equipments which they needed replacements for.

                                                           

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