Regretting that corrupt practices were happening despite taking precautions, Defence Minister A K Antony on Wednesday said the government will further tighten norms to prevent controversies such as the VVIP chopper deal and rely less on imports.
The minister said indigenisation of military hardware is the "ultimate answer" to avoid controversies such as the chopper scam and asked the armed forces to change their mindset of relying on imports to meet operational requirements.
"The need to maintain transparency, honesty and sincerity at every stage cannot be compromised. In spite of taking so many precautions, again here and there things are happening. I don’t know what to do," Antony said addressing an Army seminar where he deviated from his written speech.
He said in the Ordnance Factory Board scam, the government went to the extent of blacklisting six defence firms and arms dealer Abhishek Verma was put in jail after the ministry received allegations about his involvement in corruption in defence deals.
"Even after all this, there are people who are not learning lessons. So, we have to further tighten our mechanisms. Whenever allegations are made, we have to go the root and find the truth and punish the guilty. We cannot waste even a single penny of Indian taxpayers’ money for greedy players," the defence minister said.
Commenting on the CII Defence Committee chairman Atul Punj’s demand for more support from government for indigenisation, the minister said, "I fully agree with him".
"As we move forward more and more especially after the recent deal controversy coming, the ultimate answer is maximum indigenisation. Depending too much on imports is not the solution. "
He said the government will have a "second look" at its policies on defence production and defence procurement to speed up indigenisation in "mission mode".
The defence minister said in view of the "volatile security scenario" and the "dangerous surroundings" around the country, the armed forces required the most modern equipment as "We cannot take risk".
"But see what is happening sometimes. Last moment we have to reverse the process because of the foul play. We are back to square one," the minister said, referring to AgustaWestland deal, for which process of cancellation has been initiated three years after the deal was concluded and three of the 12 choppers have been delivered.
He said the armed forces should ensure that "Import should be the last resort not the easiest resort. That mindset you must change. The government change and the armed forces must change. Priority should be given to indigenisation.”
"There is a tendency that when you go abroad, you see a number of most modern equipment and immediately we try to take it from the import route. You should have a second look about our priority," the minister said.
He said before taking the import option for procuring equipment, the armed forces should try to find the product from Indian sources including private and public sector and DRDO officials.
"If they can assure us that they can provide us similar equipment in given time in India, and then go for it. Made in India should make us more proud.If we are so convinced that it is difficult to get the thing in that time period, and then only go for the import route," he said.
The minister said all the stakeholders must change their "mindsets and work in a mission mode that within few years we can produce maximum equipment in India. Zero import is not possible but maximum should be indigenous.New thrust would be given to self-reliance.”
The government initiated the process for cancellation of the Rs 3,600 crore chopper deal after the arrest of Finmeccanica CEO Giueseppe Orsi for allegedly paying kickbacks of Rs 362 crore to secure the deal.