Tarmak007 -- A bold blog on Indian defence: 90-seater national aircraft project put to slow death? Few HPC members suspect 'delaying tactics'

Saturday, January 28, 2012

90-seater national aircraft project put to slow death? Few HPC members suspect 'delaying tactics'

By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Service
Bangalore: Has the much-hyped National Civil Aircraft Development (NCAD) project of India being pushed to the back-burner? If sources who were part of the 16-member High Power Committee (HPC) are to be believed, the NCAD project is being 'deliberately delayed' after the feasibility report was submitted to the government in June 2011.
Former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman Madhavan Nair headed the HPC under the command of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). His team's mandate was to complete a feasibility study to develop and manufacture a 90-seater civil plane, in addition to spell out its broad design parameters. The NCAD office is situated at National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) in Bangalore, a CSIR lab.
“We had submitted the report to the Samir K Brahmachari (Director-General, CSIR) on time in June 2011 which contained a design report, feasibility report, development plan and a draft Cabinet note. Within a month it could have been taken up. We had sought for in-principle a government approval for Rs 4,500 crore for the development phase and another Rs 3,000 crore for the production. The management plan was fine-tuned by A T Kearney,” sources said.
The HPC had sent the entire report for vetting to senior member of Planning Commission Arun Maira. “The report was very thoroughly reviewed by Maira and we later incorporated all his suggestions. We don't have any clue what went wrong. May be it is professional jealousy due to the media hype NCAD received. We have been told that the DG (Brahmachari) had strong reservations on CSIR-NAL or government taking it up. He wanted private partnership, which according to HPC was not feasible. We felt that because the technology is with the government agency, the question of knowledge transfer and IPR will come. We were also sure that no private agency will be able to fund so much of money and wait for a long time,” an HPC member said.
HPC members claim that had the government acted on time, then the project could have officially taken-off this January and by 2017 probably the first aircraft would have been ready for its first flight. “If the initial approval itself is taking one year, spare a thought for the project now. There's a deliberate delay and that's hurting us. More the delay in starting the project, more chances of new technologies coming in forcing further changes. Our efforts was to establish core competence for a civil aircraft programme in India. Commercial angle comes next. If we don't start somewhere in this area, we will be left home alone, even among the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India & China) nations.
In September 2011, the CSIR boss formed two committees with one headed by Vijay Kelkar to look into the JV formation of the project and another by Roddam Narasimha to look into the technical aspects of the project. But the HPC members are feeling let down considering some of the big names of Indian aviation and defence sector have put together the feasibility study. “Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was highly impressed with our report. We had given a copy of the report to the PM the very next day after it was submitted to Brahmachari. Now we hear there is some confusion as to who should be nodal ministry for this project – whether it has to be Science and Technology Ministry or Civil Aviation Ministry,” sources said.
Some of the HPC members say that out of the Rs 50 crore sanctioned by the S&T Ministry from the CSIR funding, only Rs 20 crore has been paid the team. “It was during a review meeting in 2010 with then S&T Minister Prithviraj Chavan that the funds were sanctioned. We haven't been given enough justifications why the remaining funds were not released. Chavan gave all support to this project,” sources said.
Copyright@The New Indian Express
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