For the past two decades, a few of India's biggest business houses have been quietly aiding the construction of country's first nuclear-powered submarine.
Larson & Toubro (L&T) built the hull for the submarine at its facility in Hazira, where in 1998, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, then DRDO chief, quietly cut the steel for the hull. The ATV (advanced technology vessel) project remains L&T's biggest order from the defence forces for the engineering giant, which has been active in the defence sector
The other big player in the defence sector, the Tatas, too played an important role in ATV project. Tata Power made the control systems for the submarine and Walchandnagar Industries designed many of the systems for the steam turbine.
PM Manmohan Singh acknowledged the private sector's role. "I am glad that this submarine is the outcome of a productive public-private partnership. Private industry has evolved considerably during the last few decades and we should leverage its strengths to achieve our defence goals," he said.
A senior executive at one of the firms involved in the ATV said the project has shown that the private sector in India is capable of doing "any complex system, if given the proper opportunity." But defence procurement procedures (DPP) are skewed. "The DPP favours defence public sector units, Defence Research and Development Organisation, and even foreign vendors. I don't find anything to favour us," said the senior executive.