Asking for a contingency plan from all the defence public sector undertakings and ordnance factories for resumption of operations after lifting of the nationwide lockdown, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has said that the defence industry could play a major role in revival of the economy.
In a stock-taking meeting with the heads of defence PSUs and the Ordnance Factory Board though video conference from his office in South Block, Singh told them to "compensate for the lost working time to the extent possible and ramp up production."
The minister was referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's economic revival plan after lifting of curbs. He maintained that defence PSUs alongside private industries could play a major role in that revival plan.
A recent report by a private accountancy firm, while expressing concern over the crisis being faced by the defence manufacturers, had stated that lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic could wipe out about 40 per cent of the defence sector's micro, small and medium enterprises within three months unless a support package is put in place by the government.
The defence ministry has claimed that several units of OFB and DPSUs which are located in non-red zones have already started operations.
"Almost all DPSUs have made contingency plans to ramp up production after the lockdown is lifted by drawing up plans to work in three shifts and extending the work days from five to six days a week," a ministry official said while adding that the work will be carried out by observing social distancing and other relevant health guidelines.
While reviewing the contribution of defence PSUs and Ordnance Factories to fight COVID-19 and their operational plans, Rajnath Singh appreciated the innovative skills displayed by the DPSUs in devising manufacture of new products to fight the pandemic and also their assistance rendered to the local administration in several forms.
According to the defence ministry, the Ordnance Factory Board informed the minister that there was no COVID-19 positive case in any of its 41 manufacturing locations even as some of its units work under the Red Zone.
OFB’s contribution in fighting COVID-19 included repair of more than 100 ventilators, manufacture of 12,800 coveralls, development of specialised machines for testing of PPEs, supply of 6.35 lakh masks to local authorities, supply of 340 specialised tents to Arunachal Pradesh for COVID-19 patients and distribution of 1 lakh litres of hand sanitizer. OFB has earmarked 280 isolation beds at its hospitals in 10 locations.
Another defence PSU, Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), has made arrangements to manufacture 12,000 ventilators in May and another 18,000 in June. Around 3,000 engineers will also participate in training of the health professionals in operationalising these ventilators.
Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) is also working with eminent scientists for finalisation of design for ventilators and to make the prototype.
Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has manufactured 300 aerosol cabinets and supplied them to various hospitals. It has also distributed 56,000 masks and extended support to migrant labourers. In addition, the HAL has also earmarked 93 isolation beds in Bengaluru for COVID-19 patients.
Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) has provided PPE and medicines worth Rs 5 lakh to Naval Quarantine Centre in Mumbai and also distributed 4,000 litres of sanitiser.
Last week, Rajnath Singh had directed the armed forces to initiate measures to spend the financial resources, avoiding wastage in view of the economic burden imposed by COVID-19.