In the aftermath of COVID19, the government has offered fiscal tranches, financial stimuli, revolutionary monetary policies thereby doing the best to change the hue of self-reliance from “Make in India” to “Atma-Nirbharta”. Will this slew of measures herald this dream and transform the present state of Indian economy or is there something else required? For any idea to be successful at the national stage there needs to be strategic vision, policy guidelines and framework of rules for implementation.
The 111 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) program is one such strategic project aimed at galvanising the aerospace sector in the country. In August 2018, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had directed that the procurement of NUH be processed under the Strategic Partnership (SP) model. An Empowered Project Committee with representatives from almost 10 departments of the Government including DRDO, Defence Finance, Production, Acquisition and Quality Assurance was formed to progress the procurement case from issuance of ‘Expression of Interest’ to contract conclusion in accordance with Chapter VII of DPP 2016.
The NUH case has been a lot in the news lately with parleys between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and eminent journalists as well as revered retired naval officers especially aviators. Recently, CMD HAL was on social media wanting the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) to be included in the NUH Project levelling allegations against the Navy by stating ‘Earlier they had gone through the SP route wherein they were looking at some foreign OEM aircraft particularly one of the aircraft’. I am sure that prior to making a statement, CMD of HAL was aware that the decision to progress the case under SP Route was that of the DAC and that the entire procurement process for NUH is being progressed by an Empowered Project Committee (EPC) and not by the Navy. Moreover, the SP Model envisions an Indian Private company to partner with a foreign OEM and therefore helicopters of foreign OEMs can only be considered as NUH. With the CMD stating that ‘particularly one of the aircraft’ he has cast aspersion on the entire governmental acquisition process which squarely rests on the shoulders of the bureaucrats, the Defence Secretary being at the apex. It surprises me to see such blatant and open criticism and allegations by head of a DPSU against the bureaucracy. Has our system become so open to accept allegations from another Governmental organisation head in the media?
The Naval QRs for NUH were first uploaded in 2008 followed by revision in 2014 as directed by DAC. HAL had in a written correspondence provided to the Navy informed that the ALH does not meet the QRs laid down by the Navy and that the Navy could purchase a suitable foreign helicopter. The same has also been stated by Shiv Aroor in the interview of CMD HAL. The moot point is that ALH has never met the QRs and nor does it meet the QRs presently. Is it appropriate for a CMD of a DPSU to make such sweeping statements that the ‘specific NUH RFQ/RFI was designed for that’ without assessing the facts?