New Delhi, March 13 Manohar Parrikar’s 27-month tenure as Defence Minister has been eventful with several achievements under his belt, including the new Defence Procurement Policy (DPP), hiking compensation for widows and families of soldiers who died while fighting for the country and dealing sternly with Pakistan’s misadventures.
In fact, Parrikar was hand-picked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2014 as Defence Minister for his clean image and proven administrative abilities to relieve Arun Jaitley — who was then also holding the crucial charge of Finance Ministry — at a time when the six-month-old NDA government was still trying to find its bearings.
Through his efforts, Parrikar tried to break the middlemen-arms agents-officials nexus in the defence sector and usher in transparency, ease of doing business and expedite the decision-making process.
As minister, Parrikar controlled the world’s third largest military.
On the administrative front, Parrikar’s most conspicuous achievement could be the DPP 2016, in consonance with Modi’s ‘Make in India’ vision, that lays the road map of how India, currently the world’s largest arms importer, will acquire equipment in future.
The new policy created a new procurement category, called the Indian Designed, Developed and Manufactured (IDDM) category, to be the most preferred category for buying equipment.
“I don’t want to buy from a company that pays bribes. If you want to pay a bribe, put it on the table for the government and reduce the price,” Parrikar was quoted as saying at that time.
Notably, defence exports have risen from Rs 1,153 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 2,059 crore in 2015-16. This despite two-thirds of items being removed from the military goods list.
It was under Parrikar’s tenure that the government tried to address the long pending One Rank One Pension (OROP) policy.
In November last year, Parrikar also doubled the compensation for widows and families of soldiers dying while fighting for the country in five categories.
For soldiers dying in action during border skirmishes or fighting against militants, the compensation was revised to Rs 35 lakh from the existing Rs 15 lakh.
For deaths occurring during enemy action in war or war-like engagements, in a war-torn zone in foreign country, the compensation was increased from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 45 lakh.
Under Parrikar, the Indian forces dealt with Pakistan quite sternly whenever the neighbouring country showed any aggression, including the surgical strikes across the LoC in September last year.
He is also said to be quite popular among the Generals and forces with his unassuming manners and no-nonsense approach.
Despite being the Defence Minister, Parikkar was known to take a lot of interest in Goa politics and made frequent trips to the coastal state, so much so that an MLA accused him of “selling fish” in Goa when the Rafale deal was being signed with France in New Delhi.
Interestingly, the same detractors have now insisted on Parrikar being made the Chief Minister of the state, with some non-BJP groups extending support on this condition only.
In perhaps an indication of his impending return to Goa, Parrikar, when asked on polling day, February 4, whether he was set to return as Chief Minister, had told reporters: “I have lost four kilograms in Delhi because of the food. I like Goan food. You can interpret this the way you want.”