Fund Crunch: Fate of Nirdesh Project Hanging in Balance
At a time when the safety of Indian submarine fleet has come under scanner following a spate of mishaps, the fate of the prestigious Nirdesh project-- which would have been a primary step towards the Navy achieving self-reliance in ship-building -- hangs in the balance.
The Rs 600-crore project, aimed at setting up of National Institute for Research and Development in Defence Ship-building (NIRDESH) at Chaliyam in Kozhikode in Kerala, has not received the promised Central funding of `100 crore yet.
Wth the Lok Sabha polls around the corner, Nirdesh may face a premature death if funds are not cleared soon.
“The state government has not been putting adequate pressure on the Centre to get the funds. There’s lack of interest and follow-up from the part of the state. Mere letter writing will not do. The state should intervene in an effective manner and do the follow up at the central secretariat. The government has failed to cash in on the opportunity of having a Keralite as the Defence Minister,” accused former Kerala Industries Minister Elamaram Kareem, under whose tenure the project was initiated.
“When we initiated the project, an amount of Rs 5 crore was sanctioned through Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) and the remaining fund was supposed to be given by the Centre. However, that didn’t happen. When there were some protests demanding basic amenities in the region, a meeting chaired by the Chief Minister was called and a package was announced. That has not been implemented till now,” Kareem added.
Recently, Defence Minister A K Antony said that the Cabinet note for the second phase development of the project had been prepared.
However, with the funds getting delayed, the project may not reach anywhere.
“Now, there’s complete foreign dependence for many projects. The Navy had to send two submarines damaged in accidents to Russia for refit. One of the crucial reasons for the delay of Scorpion submarine is the cost escalation by the French and their reluctance to pass on the complete technology. Now, there is more than 70 per cent dependence in equipment, design and technology. It would be a strategic blunder if Nirdesh doesn’t materialise,” pointed out a senior defence functionary.
Vice Admiral (Retd) K N Sushil pointed out that currently India doesn’t have the expertise for designing ships or submarines.
“Designing a ship or submarine is not simple naval architecture. Currently, we derive everything from outside. Do we have a dedicated team of personnel, which include naval architects, and experts from many other fields, for ship designing? And do we have the industrial capabilities? Nirdesh cannot be a stand-alone centre. It has to work in close association with many other organisations including the industrial bodies,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, it has been pointed out that Nirdesh would have provided ample opportunities to the state. “A project for indigenous warship design would have opened a slew of opportunities for Kerala in manufacturing warship components. It is a major opportunity for the auxiliary industry to thrive. A chain of smallscale industries can sustain on this project alone. Currently, we are depending on foreign design and equipment when it comes to ship building,” sources added.