Celebrating 25th December 2014, as “Good Governance Day”, Defence Minister Shri Manohar Parrikar announced a slew of new measures for bringing in transparency and accountability in its working, greater emphasis to the use of technology to make the system prompt and efficient and to “bridge the divide between the Government and the citizens.”
As a crucial ministry responsible for vital aspects of India’s external security, since Independence-except during the 1971 Indo-Pak war- MoD had ironically became typified for absolutely nil strategic foresight/policy/planning, foot-dragging, crippling bureaucratic red tape, belittling the Armed Forces and keeping them under/ill equipped etc.
Under the new government, some major new initiatives announced have been promoting e-governance, eprocurement, biometric attendance-a rude shock to a section of civilian employees-but most welcome, Jeevan Pramaan (Aadhar card based life certificate for smooth pension disbursement) , digitization of records, online disposal of public grievances and use of online monitoring of the status of Court/Tribunal/NHRC cases. An Intra- MoD Portal has been developed for supporting these applications in the Ministry. Setting minimization of litigation as a priority, Shri Parrikar directed MoD officials to evolve a policy for reducing court cases in service matters including pensions. He also stressed that issues of cantonments pertaining to land management and civilian interface should also be resolved without delay. Public grievances are being forwarded to the concerned officers using online methods with the Minister’s strict instructions to all concerned to accord utmost importance to their time- bound disposal in the Ministry as also regular monitoring of the pendency of public grievances by senior officers Directorate General of Defence Estates has made good progress in digitization of defence land records. History division of the Ministry has also begun digitizing war records. Several other digitized records viz. Recruitment Rules, civil lists etc are likely to be placed on the ministry’s website soon.
As per army-technology.com, the current critical shortages in various areas such as ammunition, air defence systems, light helicopters, artillery guns, hand grenades, conventional submarines and fighter aircraft have been compounded by the stalling of various procurement programmes including 145 M777 Light Howitzers, 22 AH-64 Apache and 12 CH- 47F Chinook helicopters and 126 Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA), due to the lack of adequate funds.
The feedback from services of much improved accessibility to the Defence Minister is a good sign. He can also be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org by anyone including general public. Files lying in the LBW (“let the blighter wait”) tray beginning to move is another good sign. In October 2014, Government reportedly cleared 19 defence proposals of various companies that had been pending for the last few years. Regarding another 14 pending defence applications, the companies were informed that licences were not required anymore as a vast number of defence items have been de-licensed. Government reduced the items requiring industrial licences by about 60% in June 2014. Dualuse items with military and civilian applications, now do not require industrial licences for defence items and foreign direct investment limit in defence was raised to 49% in August for major imports by indigenizing production and allowed 24% portfolio investment through the automatic route.
However, what is most important is that bureaucratic interpretation should not be negative as it very often was in many cases, particularly pay and allowances and continued in the matter of one rank one pension (OROP) even after BJP government coming to power/during Shri Arun Jaitley’s tenure as defence minister. While the Army, Navy and Air Force must get their long overdue operational and man-power necessities/deficiencies made good, on OROP, Shri Parrikar’s assurance that the Ministry “is committed to early implementation of OROP for the Armed Forces and measures are being taken for the same”, must be put into action soon .