Defence Minister shepherds projects to Kerala - The New Indian Express

Defence Minister shepherds projects to Kerala

Published: 18th November 2012 10:08 AM

Last Updated: 18th November 2012 10:08 AM

Reminiscent of the parochial preferences shown by former Union Ministers Lalu Prasad and Mamata Banerjee, who funnelled major projects to their home state during their stint in the Railway Ministry, Union Defence Minister A K Antony is apparently on a spree to set up defence-related industries in his native Kerala to boost its economy and generate thousands of jobs there.

In stark contrast, only two defence projects have been located in the other states --the Nalanda Ordnance Factory in Bihar (the decision for which was taken during George Fernandes tenure in the Ministry of Defence) and the Indian National Defence University (INDU) at Gurgaon.

Antony inaugurated the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s Strategic Electronic Factory at Kasargod on Saturday, with state  Chief Minister Oommen Chandy inaugurating the production facilities at the same function. The factory will produce advanced avionics for aircraft and helicopters.

According to sources, the factory--which will cost the exchequer `66 crore in its  first phase--has been set up on the initiative of the Kerala Government. The state government had allotted 196 acres of land for setting up the new unit. Presently, the factory has taken up the production of Airborne Special Purpose Computers like Mission Computer, Display Processor, Radar Computers, Open Architect Mission Computer etc for Sukhoi SU-30, Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and MiG-27 fighter jets’ upgrade.

In phase-II--when the investment is likely to go up to Rs 200 crore--the factory will undertake manufacturing of avionics for the 126 Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) which is yet to be purchased by the IAF.

Barely 48 hours earlier on November 15th, the Defence Minister had inaugurated another complex for the integration of the supersonic cruise missile, ‘BrahMos’, at its Chackai facility in Thiruvananthapuram.

Incidentally, the complex already has one integration facility. The new facility aims at doubling the production of the missiles, with the IAF placing an order for 200 air-launched version of the missiles worth a whopping Rs 6,000 crore.

Antony had lashed out at Chief Minister Oommen Chandy during the inauguration of the BrahMos complex, claiming that the Union Ministry of Defence (MoD) cannot risk bringing new defence projects to Kerala due to the unfavourable industrial environment prevailing in the state. Despite the misgivings, the Defence Minister has managed to bestow the most “favoured” state with seven major defence projects inaugurated since taking charge of the MoDin 2006. Clearly, the projects will definitely give him considerable political mileage in his home state.

Significantly, the defence PSU Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML) has set up its fourth manufacturing unit at Palakkad. And the project is likely to entail an investment of `260 crore to manufacture Tatra trucks and other military vehicles and was expected to generate 200 jobs which would eventually go up to 1,000.

Another public sector major Bharat Electronic Limited (BEL) has set up its third support centre at Kochi’s Infrastructure Development Corporation (KINFRA) after Mumbai and Visakhapattanam.

Antony had commissioned the Coast Guard Academy at Azhikkal near Kannur in 2011, in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks for providing training to the security force personnel.  And the academy is expected to train 500 cadets for search and rescue operations and respond to maritime contingencies.

In January 2011, he had sanctioned the Rs 600 crore National Institute for Research and Development in Ship Building (NIRDESH) at Kozhikode. Besides, the Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL) has bagged some major warship construction orders--like the construction of the first indigenous aircraft carrier.

The Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala was also commissioned by Antony even though the project had been in a limbo for the last 20 years.

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