Reforming Indian Railways and Revamping India's Defence - All Eyes would be on Parrikar & Prabhu

Reforming Indian Railways and Revamping India's Defence -All Eyes would be on Parrikar & Prabhu
The dust having settled down it is time for some finer analysis. The much awaited ministry expansion is finally over with Narendra Modi Government having added 21 more ministers into his ministry. Several factors including that of giving due importance to key states like Bihar and UP, which have contributed a significant chunk of MPs to BJP in Lok Sabha, and are slated for elections in the next couple of years, have been taken into account during the ministerial expansion.

Further, issues of caste representation as well as inducting those who are known for their professional acumen have also been taken care of. In other words, the ministry expansion was an extremely calibrated and well thought out process of the Modi Government.

However, in the hindsight, after the photo-ops being over, it is time to analyze the key takeaways from this expansion. No doubt that some of the ministerial berths are for political considerations but at the same time there are at least some inductions which are primarily meant for massive transformations or rather metamorphosis in certain areas that Modi has planned for.

Why Manohar Parrikar and Suresh Prabhu Stand Out....

Two such names which stand out in this ministerial expansion and on whom much of the focus would be in the times to come are Manohar Parrikar and Suresh Prabhu. The Goa Chief Minister was literally airlifted from Goa and was installed as the new Defence Minister of India while Suresh Prabhu, a Shiv Sena veteran simply resigned from the party and took a BJP membership when his erstwhile party was dilly dallying about permitting him to get into the Modi Government.

Over the last few months when Arun Jaitley was holding the defence portfolio in addition to the crucial Finance Ministry, he had set the ball rolling by clearing some major defence deals and by bringing clarity through cancellation of some projects and making it clear that most critical defence projects would now be run through the ‘Make in India' program instead of outright procurement from abroad.

However even while he sanctioned some crucial defence projects through the Defence Acquisition Council meets, there was always a need for a full time Defence Minister primarily because clearing major deals like that of the $20 billion MMRCA or that of other critical deals of Army and Navy would require more attention.

Apart from Clearing Projects, Parrikar would be expected to change the culture of Defence Ministry

The real task in hand for Parriker would not just be to speed up the sanctioning and clearing of long pending and critical defence projects but also to streamline the decision making process in India's Defence Ministry which is perhaps one of the slowest and most bureaucratic not just by global standards but also by Indian standards.

The entire approach of the Defence Ministry towards the Armed Forces needs a sea change and a sense of urgency needs to be inculcated among the babus of Defence Ministry . The culture of delaying crucial deals inordinately has to change and there has to be accountability of the Defence Ministry and its babus when it comes to such delays of not just critical equipment but even of spare parts, which sometimes become fatal for Armed Forces.

Had it not been for the eternal delays in procuring of new batteries for submarines and had the Navy not been forced to use batteries past their life cycle, the fatal accident in the INS Sindhurakshak would not have happened and so many sailors along with the submarine would not have been lost.

There is also a similar need to revamp India's large number of Defence PSUs and Ordnance Factories and their style of functioning. Decades of government dole-outs and assured business have completely taken the concept of innovation and competitiveness out of their lexicon. Simultaneously, it is time for India take advantage of the capabilities of its private sector and inspire the creation of a defence industrial be with active participation and engagement from the private sector which has proven engineering capabilities.

Further, there is also a strong need synchronize the coordination between the Armed Forces and Central Police Forces like BSF and ITBP who do patrolling work in several sensitive areas along the Indo-Pak and Indo-China border. Given the increasing instances of intransigence both by Pakistan and China, the need for greater coordination between Indian Army and the Central police Forces is the need of the day.

Railways Need Reforms like Never Before...

In the same league, there is also a great deal of expectation from the new Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu. Modi has already outlined his vision for a new age Indian Railways and he needed a professional with proven credentials to take vision forward. While Sadanand Gowda's maiden rail budget was impressive, the fact that he was replaced by Suresh Prabhu may mean that not only Modi wants change in Indian Railways but also want that change to come fast and be brought about in a professional manner.

There is no doubt that Indian Railways, in spite of being the backbone of the country's transport system is in dire straits and needs massive revamp not just in terms of its operational efficiency but also in policy to make it more focused in its approach and to create a healthy environment of attracting investments in the sector.
If the aviation sector can be opened up to private investments both in airports and in airlines, there is no reason why the same cannot be done in case of railways in the greater interest of commuters. There is also a strong need to corporatize Indian Railways and bring in a more professional approach and accountability in the culture of railways.

Both Manohar Parrikar and Suresh Prabhu are known not just for their honestly but also for their professional acumen and for being keen learner. But in case of both, their professional acumen and experience would invariably come in handy to bring in the much needed change that from the Defence Ministry and Indian Railways badly need.

Oneindia News

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