Defense Ministry – Delays in acquisition of critical supplies – Is Antony at home ?

Saint Antony. That is one of the names by which the Defense Minister is known as. And why so ? Because he has a high reputation for honesty that being in the Congress party has not managed to besmirch, and he is also in charge of a ministry that is now appearing in the news on a regular basis, and not in a good way. The confrontation with the Army Chief over the age matter is old news (ever since the Supreme Court did not deny the truth of the general, but did not approve of the confrontation he was having with the Government).
Who else is known to be a paragon of honesty, against whom there are no allegations of corruption ? It is the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. What else is Manmohan Singh known for ? For having the most corrupt Government in modern India, for refusing to act against corruption unless forced to do so by the media or by the judiciary (remember past speeches and comments about the policy followed by Raja being the policy of the Government, and how Kalmadi had the full support of the Government as he spent and spent money on the CWG (accompanied by huge spending by many others arms of the Government)).

Now, nobody talks about the honesty of the Prime Minister, and one can be sure that he will not leave a very proud legacy whenever he does leave his high office. And now, Antony is starting to suffer numerous blows that are staining his reputation. At the height of the confrontation with the Government, there was the release of a letter that the Army Chief wrote to the Prime Minister some time back, talking about how the army was in a pretty bad condition, with a lot of equipment being antiquated, tanks not having any amount of ammunition (thus placing the country at great risk). There was a lot of criticism of the Army Chief, and MP’s condemned this action, and there was also a lot of comments about how the army chief was speaking something that was not correct.
Well, it is not to the credit of Mr. Antony as a capable defense minister that most of what the army chief has been saying has been proved correct. Over the past many years, a lot of the acquisition needed to be carried out by the defense ministry are hugely delayed (and one does not even want to get into the credibility of an agency like the DRDO, which has been unable to provide dependable alternate indigenous manufacturing capabilities for the huge amounts of money that India pays to many overseas suppliers). So, there was a recent report by the Parliamentary Defense Committee that actually agreed with the Army Chief that there were huge delays in the availability of many defense systems, ammunition, etc. Just today in fact there was a report that stated that the Government was facing delays over the availability and procurement of better bullet proof clothes for the para-military organizations.
What Antony is now becoming famous for is being able to spot transactions where there could be problems, and stopping them or getting their suppliers blacklisted (in some cases, these were suppliers who were the prime suppliers of the required equipment). So the last major howitzer deal was that of Bofors of the 1980’s, the availability of modern air force systems is very slow (with some of the current Mig 21’s reaching 40 years in service and the LCA nowhere to be seen). There are numerous other problems, where we needed a dynamic defense minister who could ensure that defense deals were not getting bogged down, and that there was a lot more emphasis on indigenous supplies (even if that meant getting the private sector involved). As a last word, the ongoing investigation into the Tatra truck deal and BEML is spilling so many violation of rules, and it turns out that Antony had notices of these complaints earlier but did nothing till the media blew it up.

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