New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday announced that a "clear-cut" policy will be unveiled next month on engaging "representatives" for arms purchases that will also provide for punitive action against firms found involved in kickbacks.
Expressing concern over long delays in defence procurement, Parrikar promised a raft of measures to ensure transparency and at the same time speeding up such purchases to modernise the armed forces.
The Defence Minister said blacklisting of defence suppliers to deal with graft was not the only solution and indicated going for stiff penalties instead against erring firms found involved in corrupt practices like kickbacks.
"We should be in a position to have a very clear cut policy by January on representatives and on blacklisting. What does blacklisting mean. How far we can take it forward," Parrikar said.
In an indirect reference to alleged graft in defence purchases, he said the last decade was a "'loss decade' for the armed forces, but 'gain decade' for many others."
India's military procurements have been dogged by long delays and allegations of graft and many defence experts had suggested legalising "agents" for speedy purchase of military hardware.
The former Goa chief minister, who assumed charge of Defence Ministry a month ago, said having "representative" with a very clear method of payment and fees was a better solution to the defence forces than delaying the procurement procedures.
"There should be a very clear agreement deposited with the Defence Ministry in advance. Very heavy penalty (should be imposed) if you violate that," he said while addressing Aaj Tak Agenda programme.
On implementation of the 'One Rank, One Pension' policy, Parrikar said an announcement will be made within next 4-8 weeks. "I will not drag the issue for long. I will sort it out at the earliest. If I could take the satisfaction level (of the former armed personnel) to 80-90 per cent, that should be a good enough solution."
'One Rank, One Pension' has been a long-standing demand of the over two million ex-servicemen of India. It seeks to ensure that a uniform pension is paid to the defence personnel retiring at the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.
On issues like imposing penalty on firms found guilty of wrongdoings, he said it was his "loud thinking" and a policy will be put in place next month.
Underlining the need for speeding up defence procurement, the Minister said the government was working on ensuring transparency and that delay in decision-making allows entry of more agents.
Observing that blacklisting was not the only solution, the Defence Minister said Italian defence multinational Finmeccanica, which was blacklisted, has around 39 subsidiaries and wondered whether it was viable to not buy arms from any one of them.
Expressing concern over the death of army personnel in various accidents, Parrikar said he will not allow any carelessness.
"Give me some time, I will establish accountability. I cannot lose soldiers while (they are) loading the gun. I promise accountability in Defence Ministry," he said.
On his predecessor AK Antony, Parrikar, a Mumbai IIT graduate in metallurgical engineering, said, "I agree that Antony may have a clean image. That does not mean the reflection of cleanliness in the actual procurement. To remove dirt, you have to step into it."
Asserting that NDA government will bring transparency into defence purchases and, at the same time, ensure speedy procurement, he said, "There is no solution only by remaining honest."
He also talked about the illegal practice of commissioning in defence deals in the past.
"I have been told that there are hundreds of people in Delhi who, by becoming defence agents, acquired lavish bungalows," he said.