Decks Cleared for Development of BATL - The New Indian Express

Decks Cleared for Development of BATL

Published: 25th February 2014 08:54 AM

Last Updated: 25th February 2014 08:54 AM

Election year is turning out to be a lifesaver for crisis-hit BrahMos Aerospace Thiruvananthapuram Ltd (BATL), Chakkai, and the Missile Integration Complex (MIC) inaugurated there by Defence Minister A K Antony in November 2012.

In the 15 months since the inauguration, not a single missile has been integrated at the MIC, to the dismay of the BATL employees.

But now, decks are being cleared quickly for the take-over of Indian Air Force (IAF) land adjacent to the BATL unit.

This will see the long-delayed Phase II expansion of the missile firm finally happening. The Centre will release Rs 40 crore for funding a ‘barter’ so that the IAF can finalise the hand-over of its 7.15 acres of land to the BATL in exchange of 20 acres identified by the State Government at Muttathara. This exchange had been on the cards since 2009.

Last week, Antony promised the BATL’s combative AITUC and INTUC unions a quick end to the problems ailing the seven-year-old missile firm.

“The Defence Minister said that all issues, including matters related to pension and development stagnation, would be looked into,” said M P Achuthan MP, who met Antony in New Delhi with a petition from the AITUC-backed BrahMos Employees Union. And on Saturday, Antony met the INTUC-backed BrahMos Staff Association here, where he repeated the promise. “The Defence Minister has taken a favourable stance on all issues,” Association secretary Suresh Kumar L said.

The meetings are significant in that the BATL management considers both unions illegitimate.

The BATL was formed in December, 2007, by taking over the State Government-run Kerala Hitech Industries Ltd (KELTEC). However, progress has dragged owing to labour issues and scarcity of land for expanding the facility. Both unions have been shooting off petitions to the Centre, the Defence Minister and the State Government since 2008, but were being ignored. In November 2012, the Defence Minister inaugurated the MIC on a portion of the 7.15-acre IAF land which lies next to the BATL unit. The IAF has not formally transferred the land yet.

The land deal can be concluded only when the State Government completes the development of the 20 acres at Muttathara and hands that over to the IAF. This process is currently on.

“We will be able to expand our facility once we get the entire 7.15-acre land at Chakkai. Currently only a part of it has been handed over to us, where we have the MIC. The rest of the land is occupied by the Air Force Signals Unit, which the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will help re-locate elsewhere,” said A Sivathanu Pillai, Chief Executive Officer, BrahMos Aerospace Pvt Ltd (BAPL), the Indo-Russian parent company of the BATL.

For the past 15 months, the MIC has been limping along by assembling parts of the BrahMos missile. But then, seven years after its formation, full integration of the world-class cruise missile remains a dream at the BATL. The total production at MIC alone - which has around 27 staff - from April to December 2013, amounted to roughly Rs 1.30 crore, according to figures released by the BATL management.

In September that year, production amounted to a measly Rs 7,678, according to a petition filed before the Defence Minister by the trade unions.

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