Monday, July 27, 2009

CAG questions Gorshkov, Scorpene deals

THE nation has been suffering huge losses owing to delays in defence purchases, but babus in the Defence Ministry seem to be the least bothered about these. The Comptroller and Auditor-General’s latest report has slammed the defence establishment for the way it has been handling many big acquisitions, particularly of Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and six French Scorpene submarines for the Navy. India entered into a contract to acquire Gorshkov in 2000, a second-hand refitted war ship, at $875 million but ultimately it may have to shell out as much as $1.82 billion with the delivery time extended from 2008 to 2012. Why should India suffer when the Russians cannot fulfil their promise in accordance with the contract?The CAG has expressed surprise why India should go in for Gorshkov when it could have bought a similar new aircraft carrier at a price 60 per cent less than Gorshkov. A new ship could have served the Navy for at least 40 years whereas Gorshkov may be useful for a much shorter period. The story of the purchase of six Scorpene submarines is also shocking. As the CAG report points out, the French firm was favoured with “large concessions” and that too when the “submarine design selected has not proved its efficacy in any other navy”. This is not the way to go in for defence-related purchases. The CAG has come down heavily on those involved in defence acquisitions in the past also like in the case of the purchase of HDW submarines from Germany. Yet the babus in the defence establishment continue to function in the way it suits them. It is time Defence Minister A. K. Antony looks into the CAG report closely and holds an enquiry to find out what has gone wrong in the acquisitions of costly defence wherewithal from other countries. The CAG report has increased his workload.

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