Even as the Modi government has promised to quicken the pace of defence modernisation, several key positions in the ministry of defence are currently lying vacant, raising a question mark on the effective decision making.
This also comes at a time when the ministry of defence is awaiting a full defence minister since Arun Jaitley is discharging the duties of both finance and defence ministers simultaneously.
Key departments in the south block ministry like defence production, navy and aerospace have been headless for over a month.
According to a ministry official, department of defence production, a vital organ of the ministry, is headless for nearly a month. Secretary (defence production) Gokul Chandra Pati, a 1978 IAS officer, has gone back to his parent cadre in Odisha to take charge as chief secretary of the state.
Even the second in command in the defence production, AK Gupta, additional secretary, has also been empanelled for the rank of secretary and may be transferred out from the defence ministry. Department of defence production deals with the matters pertaining to defence production, indigenisation of important equipment and spares, planning and control departmental production units of Ordinance Factory Board (OFB) and other defence public sector undertakings.
Besides defence production, joint secretary naval shipyards, AK Meena, has also moved out of the ministry and currently pursuing a higher education in the United States on education leave. Joint secretary, naval shipyards deals with all warship development projects and is the top officer in the ministry to co-ordinate all maritime domain related issues with navy and coast guard. Currently, the Indian Navy is building 46 warships, including destroyers, stealth destroyers and frigates. Three destroyers are being built at state-run Mazagon Dock Ltd for $ 3.5 billion under the Project 15-A. In addition, another four destroyers at a cost of about $3 billion are also coming up at MDL. State-run Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers is also building four corvettes for about $2.2 billion.
Similarly, joint secretary (aerospace) KK Pant has also been shunted out from his major responsibility of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited projects. Mishra's role was to supervise all military aviation projects carried out by the HAL as he was one of the members of the board of directors in the defence PSU, which is developing many home-made aircraft, including fighter light combat aircraft Tejas. Another joint secretary PK Mishra has also moved out from the ministry and sent to the Audit and Account cadre in New Delhi.
However, the officials claimed that the Modi sarkar at present is paying unprecedented attention to the appointment and transfers of babus in the centre government.
"At present, each and every appointment of top babu is being cleared by the highest office in the government. The officer's background, patronage and his/her proximity with the previous government are also being closely examined before an appointment is made," said a senior defence ministry official, on condition of anonymity.