Govt to Carry Out Reforms in Defence Procurement: Prez

Government today promised that it will overhaul the defence procurement system to increase efficiency and encourage domestic military industrial base against the backdrop of long delays in acquisitions and scams such as the VVIP chopper deal.

Addressing the first joint sitting of Parliament after the recent Lok Sabha elections, President Pranab Mukherjee said the government will introduce new policies including liberalised FDI in defence to strengthen and develop a strong indigenous defence industrial base.

The government also promised to implement the long- pending demand of 'One Rank One Pension' and also assured that it will set up a 'Veteran's Commission' to look into the issues faced by ex-servicemen and build a National War Memorial for the martyred soldiers.

"Recognising the importance of coastal security, my government will set up a National Maritime Authority.

"My Government will carry out reforms in defence procurement to increase efficiency and economy. It will encourage domestic industry, including the private sector; to have a larger share in design and production of defence equipment," Mukherjee said.

Defence procurement system has been hit hard by delays and scams in the recent years allegedly due to lack of transparency and complicated long procedures.

Several acquisition plans such as the 126 combat aircraft, the 197 light chopper and 145 artillery howitzer deals have been hit by long delays in the recent past during the UPA regime.

The President said the government "will introduce policies to strengthen technology transfer, including through liberalised FDI in defence production".

Different ministries of the government have already initiated steps to increase the existing 26 per cent cap in FDI in defence and it is likely to be allowed up to 100 per cent on case to case basis.

"With readily available skilled human resource, India can emerge as a global platform for defence manufacturing including software, which will strengthen our defence and spur industrial development as well as exports," Mukherjee said.

He noted that the armed forces "serve the nation with professionalism, dedication and valour, securing our nation and supporting relief and rescue operations in the wake of disasters and calamities".

"We will strengthen defence preparedness by modernising our armed forces and addressing the shortage of manpower on priority," he said.

The armed forces are facing shortage of over 14,000 officers and their operations suffer due to this shortage.

The President said the government "will do everything to repay the debt of our brave and selfless soldiers. It will appoint a Veterans Commission to address their grievances, so that they know that we don't stop caring for them when they retire from active service."

"The government will build a National War Memorial to honour the gallantry of our soldiers. One Rank, One Pension scheme will be implemented," he said.

The issue of building a war memorial in the India Gate complex in New Delhi has been stuck for several years now with the Delhi government also raising objections over it.

The One Rank One Pension issue is an old demand of veterans who have been seeking equal pension for defence personnel having retired from same rank and after putting in equal length of service irrespective of the time of their retirement.

At present, personnel who retired before the 6th Pay Commission was implemented on January 1, 2006 get lesser pension than those who retired after that.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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