Saturday, August 14, 2010

ALH and Weapon Indigenisation policy of India (Are we on opposite poles?)

[HAL Dhruv ALH]

Now-a-days Indian Government is spending mind blowing amounts on the purchase of foreign weapons and other defence systems. No need to say, India became a favorite destination for foreign weapon manufactures – no matter whether it is fighter aircrafts, rocket launchers, missiles, submarines, tanks, radars etc. In India they are finding market for whatever they have.

As we moved from the socialist era to liberalized era (as someone pointed out; we can call this era as ‘half baked capitalism’, not fully there and not fully here) India opened her doors for everyone – which was until then favored the socialist weapons. Leaders know that we can’t fully rely on foreign weapons forever – in fact no country can. Not only because of the fact that the flow of money in the case of big ticket purchases are very high but also to make sure that we have to reach a stage where we can go on our own. But the recent activities in this area don’t offer much hope, at least for the near future. In order to analyze this situation we can take a look on the development and production of Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the recent CAG report of it.

ALH, weighting 5.5 tonne, is a multi- role, multi mission helicopter fitted with two ‘Turbomeca’ TM 333 2B2 engines. The design started in 1984 and collaboration agreement was signed on 1984 (terminated in 1994 even though certain systems not developed, validated and integrated by that time), and five prototypes of basic version which was supposed to be certified in 1994 actually certified in 2003. More interesting thing is that the technical requirements finalized in 1979 by Army and Air force were not fully achieved and even now and the 74 helicopters supplied to the services are flying with concessions.

Problems started from the beginning itself (Its ok at that time as HAL is newly entering to the ALH world). Against the consultant’s advice for freezing the final design for successful implementation of product, company went on for open design phase- which they later defined as ‘concurrent Engineering Philosophy’. This led to 363 modifications carried out in 34 helicopters, and faced a large number of design problems during manufacturing. Apart from the design problems Advanced Light Helicopter turned out to be a heavier one. Earlier it was expected that the gross weight of basic version will be of 4 tons (Basic Empty Weight (BEW) of 2.24tones - BEW expected for TM 333 engine fitted in ALH was 2.55 tones) but in field (March 2002) it weighted 5.5 tones (BEW was 2.65 tones). Due to this over weight and limited engine power, the mission of 200 kg at an altitude of 6 km was not achieved.

In order to meet the additional performance requirements for weaponized version of ALH, an agreement was signed with Turbomeca(TM) in 2003 for the development of high powered ‘Shakti Engine’ which was to be certified at France in 2006. It was planned that HAL’s work share (read as ‘Indigenisation’) will be increased from 16.7% in phase 0 in 2009-10 to 73% in phase 4 by 2013, but due the failure in the creating the in-house facilities for gearboxes ( to be used in ‘Shakti Engine’), HAL outsourced that to ‘Turbomeaca’. The delay in this program also mirrored in its certification process (yet to be certified) and subsequently in the postponement in the delivery of 20 ALH.

In 1986 defence department observed that the ALH under development will be unsuitable in the attack role because of its overweight and volume. The Weapon System Integration (WSI) project was to be completed by 2003 is still in progress (as of Sep 2009). Selection of weapons, vendor were not addressed timely for the WSI integration project. As it didn’t meet its requirement Navy didn’t accept ALH in for Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW). The delay in the delivery of the ALH will also affect the defence preparedness of the country as it was supposed to be the successor of aging Cheetah/Chetak helicopters.

[Dhruv - Equador Air Force] [This photo is from Wikipedia and displaying under the CC 2.0 generic License]

During the practice in Bangalore (2007 Feb 1) an ALH (J-4062) was crashed; another one delivered to ‘Ecuador Air Force (FAE)’ crashed in 2009. Reasons for these incidents are attributed to the problems in control saturation. This also led to the non-receipt of a possible export order from Chile. This will put a question mark in customers mind about the confidence in company and its products. ALH was supposed to be an indigenous product, but in the current one 90% of value of material is foreign against the recommended level of 50%.

Indigenization is good; it will be the dream of every country to have in house production lines for advances weapons and to create a huge Military- Industrial Complex (MIC). But before going for indigenisation we have to do considerable amount of homework. First of all a delay of decades will make the product useless or outdated one. Problems will come for the first time but after two decades in development and considerable time in production the product is supposed to be stabilized – It can’t fly on concessions forever. When we are selling these products to the foreign customers, it’s our duty to make sure that; it is free of serious defects (if not all the defects). Otherwise it will affect not only create an adverse impact on the reputation of the producer but also affect the reputation of the country.

Now we are investing the huge amount of money for defence purchases ranging from multirole fighter planes to sub marines and night vision Equipment – the list is very long. Can any one imagine the thousands of jobs (if not lacks) these programs can create in India, if we had in-house production capabilities for these weapons? In such a case the amount of money flowing to the public exchequer as tax and profit will reduce our budget deficit (it may even show a positive margin – if we are not going to host any other games in the way we organized 2010 Common Wealth Games). Whatever be the reason – recession, famine etc. - there will not be any reduction in the sails of weapons for a foreseeable future.

[Army Aviation deploying US troops while training]

For the success of all these programs we should have a clear view on what to do. These types of helicopters (most of the defence products for that matter) already exist in the world with proven track records. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Instead bring the best brains in the industry and develop excellent training centers (not for the namesake) in the country. There will be many people in the foreign weapon production companies who will be ready to work for Indian companies if we are ready to offer considerable compensation and good opportunities in R&D. Hire them and train ourselves, the investment will not be a waste. Along with this remove all the restrictions on Indian private sector from entering the defence manufacturing industry. If the weapons we are manufacturing and using for critical purpose have considerable percentage (or full) of foreign parts, then what is the problem of having some parts from Indian players? This will not only result in the increment of efficiency but also transform our nation from a dumping ground for foreign weapons to that of a manufacturer and exporter level.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Time has come to say “Stop Mayawati, That’s enough”

From time immemorial creating huge temples, statues and palaces are part of Indian culture, no matter whether it is the magnificent temples of South, or the beautiful temples of Orrisa, Orcha etc. Still Taj Mahal, Mysore palace, Palaces of Rajasthan etc. are attracting millions of visitors. Creation of all these structures happened long times back when huge empires have the means and supported these initiatives. After that a lot of waters flowed through Ganga, millions died due to notorious famines in her shores; artificial lines had broken the continuity of the subcontinent which was a continuous land even after the breaking from from Panjiya.

Protecting art is not bad; in fact it’s a way of preserving our culture for the coming generation. I don’t have any problem if some one wants to spend a million (any amount for that matter) for a painting or statues. As far as it personal and the hard earned money of individual it’s ok. But what right’s governments have to spend the hard earned money of her citizens to spend in such projects, whose sole purpose is to satisfy someone’s wild dreams? It a practice in different civilizations to create memorials for various occasions ranging from the victory in war to that of the death of their bellowed leaders who worked for a national cause. Government can build memorials when it is necessary (and also have enough money to spend) but that should not be the only job of them. People didn’t elected their representatives for building their own statues, they are elected because some believes that they will provide good governance and the administration will guide people to achieve more and more prosperity.

But the current ‘Uttar Pradesh’ administration is going in exactly the opposite way (It’s going on for quite a long time). Its look like they are more interested in building stone and metal statues of BSP founder, Chief Minister Mayavati and B.R Ambedkar, than solving the problem of Dalit women who were continued to be victims of rapes and other atrocities. According to National Crime Records Bureau the number of rape cases involving Dalit women in UP were 375, the highest in the country. No one knows how many cases are not even reached the FIR’s of Police. In fact in the latest report of National Commission for Scheduled Castes claims that cases of atrocities against Dalit’s are highest in UP followed by Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. It is to be remembered that UP is currently ruled by a CM who came to power as the champion of Dalit cause but it looks like it may ends up in statue cause.

What Mayavati didn’t able to do in UP is breaking the caste structure of the state, which is heavily anchored on the caste superiority. I think B.R Ambedkar and BSP’s founder will be more happy if she is going to do something for the upliftment of poor and Dalit. The recent allocation of 500 crore over and above the hundreds of crore already spend on the statue programs is certainly an unwanted move. Let’s stop this exercise once and for all. We don’t want statue wars – this is not only applicable for Mayavathi but also for all other politicians too. We can build statues after majority of Indians were able stand on their own.

For now please stop this statue budgets, instead build infrastructure and provide education to the rural masses. It is her responsibility to endure the well being of the people of the state. She have to protect them from atrocities due to the birth in lower caste (Anyway its not in their control). She also have to make sure that the poor people are able get enough food and education. Otherwise Ambedkar is not going to smile even if she made all the beautification in his atatue.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mamta Banerjee and Writer's Building - The role of manifesto

Without any doubt the current Union Minister for Indian Railways is one of the most popular leaders in India with a mass following. Indeed when many are arguing for women reservation bill, Mamta reached the higher echelons of Indian democracy without the support of so called Reservations. In fact she was elected as the youngest parliamentarian in 1984 defeating veteran communist leader Somnath Chaterjee from Jadavpur.

Later she left congress and formed ‘Trinamool Congress’ (1997) and joined the Vajpayee government as Railway minister. She presented her first Railway budget in 2000. Her simple living and mingling with people - like any another commoner – only increased her popularity. Indeed in India, many are seeing politics as a ladder to attain wealth and after the elections they will become alien to the people whom they are going to represent in parliament. People may not yet forget the controversial scene of 1998, when she dragged a ‘Samajwadi Party’ MP out of the wells of ‘LokSabha’ in order to prevent him from protesting during the Women reservation bill.

After losing the 2005 Kolkata Municipal elections and 2006 West Bengal elections, she made herself popular by agitating against the land acquisition for ‘Salim Group’, ‘Tata Motors’ etc. Tata finally moved out of West Bengal. The agitations went so far that now-a-days industrial houses will be happy to avoid a confrontation in WB (in fact the state itself), still the natural resources of WB is a temptation for many of them. Performance in the last parliament elections made her indivisible part of ‘Manmohan Cabinet’ and again become the railway minister, recent victory in municipal elections only increased her strength.

So far good, but in the second term she had to fight against the legacy of ‘Lalu Prasad Yadav’ – One of the most successful Railway minister of India – who also holds the credit for turning around the Indian railway from its disastrous journey to a profitable path. But after his time as the minister in cabinet was over, Railways once again turned around and starts the disastrous journey even if it is of lower velocity. Otherwise how can you explain the curious things in the balance sheet of Indian Railway? For the fiscal year 2009-10 railways revised their projection of profit from 2642.26 crore rupees to 951.03 – a whopping decline of 64%. If we are comparing it with the 2007-08 the decline is a staggering 93%. These values will certainly be a puzzle even for a well seasoned economist.

Not only the declining profit of Indian railways, the increasing accidents in the network and her special preference for West Bengal – It is a known fact that most of the railway ministers focused on their own state and will make it sure that least half of the new trains will start, end or go through their state – made her a controversial figure outside WB (regarding railways).

I still remember my conversations with one of my friend who is from Delhi but originally from Kolkata. I was explaining to him about my problem of getting a reservation for a journey to Kerala - as it was Onam season I booked the ticket some 70-80 days before the journey, but waiting lists was closed for that particular day, I checked for the previous day, and got a position in waiting list. Then our discussion went to the allotment of numerous trains for Bengal and Bihar after every budget –for a long time Railway ministers are coming from these two states. But his answer was really a thought provoking one – ‘We have that much trains but not enough track for running it’. A clear indication of cosmetic/surface revolution!

Frequent skipping of cabinet meetings and controlling railways from Kolkata will neither prove good for Railways nor for the nation. It is not extremely great to have a great ambition for something (to become the CM Bengal) but it should not be at the cost of vital sectors of the nation. If she want to concentrate on WB assembly polls she can put some other efficient person even from her party lines to this decorated post, but nation certainly deserve a full time railway minister.

Not only regarding railways, Mamta had to look forward on what she is going to do if she become the CM of West Bengal, instead of fully focusing on criticizing current WB government. If she is going to become the chief minister after next elections, then the message from the people is very clear – they want a change and have a lot of expectations from her. State also deserves a clear view of her intention regarding to the developments and changes which can be expected if she become CM. Concentrating on criticizing CPI (M) may prove good when she is in opposition, but once she has the responsibility of a state she have to concentrate on the well being of people and development of State, it should not be like the declining profits of Indian Railways.

No one is sure about her industrial policy, neither her economical policy. It is not clear what she is going to do on Maoist problems. This is the place where many parties fails – creating a clear vision on what they are going to do. Before every election everyone is engaged in bashing each other, but they are not presenting a clear view on what they are going to do. Even if they presented many of them will not be followed. In many cases parties are taking 360 degree views after elections. One simple but effective policy is divide and rule – indeed a time-tested one. Divide the people on caste and other lines, create a vote bank out of it, and try to satisfy them in definite inter wells.

Many of the parties don’t even have clearly defined Industrial, Foreign, social and economic policies, so that people will be able to know what they are going to do once they are elected. This case also offering the parties much higher flexibility – when some issue comes they can sleep with any one, ideology will not be problem. Some other Parties will come up with Utopian policies, which are clearly not practical or the execution of it will create a drain on exchequer. Some others will come up with an ever changing policy - whatever suits them at that that time – which will definitely help them for horse trading after the elections. The so called party manifestos may not even have the worth of the paper in which it is written.

Here Mamta got a chance to rewrite the history; if she becomes the CM of West Bengal after the next election it will defiantly become history – the end of continuous rule of CPI (M) in West Bengal from 1977. This is the time for her to come up with her policies, what she is intending to do, and live up to it. Certainly people have the right to know what they can expect from the representatives they are going to elect. Mere bashing will not result in any constructive purpose.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Commonwealth Games: Can’t we wait some more time?

Every country wants to conduct spectacular sporting events in their home, weather it is Olympics, Asian Games, FIFA world Cup (or any other world cup for that matter), Commonwealth Games etc. But the wishes are not the only ingredient to conduct these games; If China’s recent Olympics was an Indicator money have to flow in to these games like water is flowing in the Amazon river.

Indeed for 2010 common wealth games India was not the sole bidder – Hamilton (Ontario) was offering a tough competition to New Delhi. But at that point of time (During the second round of voting) India government stepped in and promised US$ 1, 00,000 to each participating country (For your information there are 72 participating nations for 2010 commonwealth games) along with air ticket, boarding, Transport and lodging - an offer which is not possible to appear even in the wildest imaginations of farmers from Vidarbha or Waynad. Hamilton may not be that much worried after losing to New Delhi and other countries may be too happy to vote for New Delhi.

Just like any other project in India, this too have huge cost overruns – the only difference is that, this time it was too much – ranging from 500% to 1500% depends on who is calculating. But this $1.6bn (not including the capital already spend on Infrastructure) sporting (extravaganza) is definitely the costliest in the Commonwealth games history. This cost escalation looks like government have too much money to spend and as it cant dump these money in ocean – just like dumping the wasted food grains from the FCI godown in the oceans because of the ‘highly efficient’ Public Distribution System – wasting the money in this extravaganza. Anyway it nullified at least half the income in the recent 3G spectrum auction.

And for projecting the new and emerging India - where slums are completely alien – government executed a beautification drive in Delhi. This resulted in the demolition of hundreds of homes and displacement of city dwellers. Are they not part of the emerging India? Or are we putting the stories of uneven grown and out of growth under the carpets? What more; government even erected bamboo screens around city slums to separate visitors from the sight of the slums. This remembered me the story which I studied in the school days, where a person hides his aged mother from the eyes of his visiting boss, and in the end he asked his mother - when she decides to go for Kashi (Varanasi) to spend the rest of her life - to postpone the journey and requested to sew a sweater for his boss so that he can get a promotion. Delhi high court even implemented a mobile court to relocate the migrant beggars from Delhi streets, what about the mobile courts for already panding cases?

CWG (Common wealth Games) was not only come under heavy criticism for the delay in the preparation of stadium but also to the accusation of corruption. If the corruption charges are proved correct then, it will make the point more clear and vivid that – it is difficult to execute a massive project (In fact any project) in India which involves huge amount of money with out some (or all) money going to private bank accounts. Its still not explained how a UK firm which is supposed to supply video equipment ends up supplying cars for rentals and the financial transactions related to it; of course ‘Organizing Committee’ denied all the allegations.

All this makes me to rethink about the possibility of my country organizing much bigger events like Asian Games and Olympics. The hole created by in the exchequer by the Common Wealth Games may be filled up by the money from the 3G spectrum auction. But every time we can’t hold a spectrum auction, neither we can have this much cost overruns. It is neither advisable nor a good strategy to spend this much money in a sport event at a time, when according to the new measurement of poverty index Eight Indian states accounts for more poor people than in the 26 poorest African Countries combined. So instead of jumping forward to organize Asian Games and Olympics it better to make our house in order even if it resulted in the waiting of one more decade.

As Delhi is already the National Capital, and hosted the first Asian Games it may be good that if we move the future games to some tier 2 cities like Indore, Patna, Nagpur, Kochi, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar, Lucknow etc so that these cities will be able to get the global focus and Infrastructure improvement. Furthermore if we are spending the money, which we offered to other countries to improve the sports in their countries, in Indian domestic sports circuits it will definitely increase the number in the medal list. No one can popularize a sport event if it doesn’t have any appeal in the grass roots. Football and Cricket become highly popular neither because of the government support nor because of the corporates but because of the support it have in the grass roots.

All aboard Delhi's beggar express
India razes slums, leaves poor homeless
Poor lose before Games begin
New Delhi to hide slums with bamboo 'curtains' during 2010 Commonwealth Games
UK government follows CWG cash trail