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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours! (May 2016)

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The 26/11 has left a scar on India that is indelible. Much like the 1962 border war with China. Both have nothing in common other than the scars that they’ve left behind. One of the murmurs doing the rounds soon after the 26/11 was that the National Security Guard assault team did not have hands free, throat activated or otherwise, communication systems. Which meant that the assault troops could not move, aim or fire, whilst communicating since they were not equipped with such sets. Not that these facts are any great secrets that aren’t available in the market.

NSG veterans claim that they’d been asking for such sets, but the convoluted procurement process did not allow that critical request to see the light of the day. If they had had such sets, the assault team casualties might have been reduced. It is simple enough to imagine such a set, but seems an impossible task to see completion of the process. This is because despite many years of independence, India continues to be in the grip of a debilitating and convoluted bureaucratic process when it comes to procurements for the needs of defence and security forces. Procedures cause delays.

It is not that the defence and security forces are entirely innocent in the matter. For starters, their headquarters tend to change requirements as frequently as their personnel change. Each Director General, for example, has added his inputs into making the Arjun Main Battle Tank an unviable product. Each seems to want to outdo his predecessor in instilling alterations to the design and the final product. This has made the sealing of design and development an impossible task. When goal posts keep shifting, it becomes impossible for the developing or even the procurement agency from keeping track of requirements.

Handwara, in the Kashmir valley, is currently in the news owing to a rumour which got people excited enough to face bullets from riot control police. There is no reason, of course, why a rumour was allowed to gain traction and as a result of which rioting mobs had to be fired on. The moot point is why should security forces be compelled to operate in a perennially riotous environment without sophisticated equipment that can control mobs without using lethal life threatening methods? Security forces, by the sheer weight of their response, add to casualties. Thus, building up greater resentment amongst people.

The Defence and security forces don’t help their case by only adding to the armoury, rather by working through a long term vision of what constitutes their entire spectrum of operations. So, India has to deal with the piquant situation of having a myriad of small arms, but little in terms of non-lethal riot control equipment. The Army and the various security forces operating in difficult situations have a variety of arms available, so much that they would be the envy of a developed country. But they haven’t budgeted for other equipment and which could prove just as useful, if not more valuable. For this to happen, the various agencies of the government have to sit together and develop a blueprint for the necessary equipment: lethal and non-lethal. Hands free communication sets are just as important in riot control situations as they are in anti-terrorist assault operations. The qualitative requirements that each service has developed need to be discussed threadbare, to cater for operational requirements as well as being logistically logical. The current scenario has allowed the services to place demands for all kinds of arms, thus complicating the logistics chain to unmanageable levels. This has to be simplified first.

Deficiencies exist because the management of budgets is skewed in favour of the big ticket item rather than what is urgently needed. That can only be rectified once the entire scale of operations is analysed, involving all the concerned services. Keeping it simple helps in the long term, since it is easier to manage budgets jointly rather than singly. And then, it also compels a recalcitrant bureaucracy from opposing or delaying for the sake of it. The bureaucracy finds holes in proposals because they exist. The best option is to not let them exist in the first place. For that the various services have to sit together and plug the gaps.


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