National Institute for Defence Shipbuilding awaits a saviour

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Plans to set up a design software unit and training centre for naval architecture under Nirdesh have been in cold storage.

An ambitious project that was expected to spur development and generate jobs, the National Institute for Research and Development in Defence Shipbuilding (Nirdesh) has been in limbo with no aid forthcoming from the authorities for its revival

Touted as one of the biggest government projects in recent times in Kozhikode, the National Institute for Research and Development in Defence Shipbuilding (Nirdesh) at Chaliyam has been in limbo for the last several years.

Many thought the project would spur development in the city, apart from providing jobs to a few hundred people when then Defence Minister A.K. Antony laid the foundation stone with great fanfare for the Rs 600-crore project in January 2011. Around Rs 2 crore was spent on its inauguration alone, sources said.

Land acquired

Incidentally, the State government has also acquired 40 acres for an autonomous project under the Department of Defence Production.

However, all these years nothing positive has come forth except for building infrastructure and conducting minor research in collaboration with Indian Institutes of Technology and other academic institutions. But that too stopped two years ago. Now, projects such as augmenting indigenous defence production by designing warships and submarines have turned out to be non-starters, according to officials.

Eminent scientist and Nirdesh Deputy Director D.C. Agarwal was in the city last week on a special mission in connection with the project. Many believe that his visit will revive Nirdesh which has received no funds from the Centre so far. Dr. Agarwal, sources say, was engaged as a consultant to operate from Kozhikode, but he was mostly confined to New Delhi. This also adversely affected Nirdesh though a few officers on deputation and a skeletal staff worked at the project site. Even the board of governors and executive committee of Nirdesh rarely met. Funds released by Mazagon Dock Limited, Goa Shipyard Limited, Hindustan Shipyard Limited, and Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited keep the project live.

Nirdesh has been awaiting approvals to design small vessels for the Navy as well as harbour vessels, tugs, ferries, and survey ships. Plans were afoot to set up a design software unit and training centre for naval architecture. They too are in cold storage, officials say.

Efforts to revive the project have been on for some time now, and M.K. Raghavan, Kozhikode MP, had even apprised then Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar of the need for funding the project. Local legislators and some organisations took up the matter with the State government, but of little or no avail with the Finance Ministry rejecting a Rs 200-crore revival package.

A proposal to pump in funds through the Defence Ministry was also not implemented as Nirdesh was registered under a society.

Another proposal to bring the project under the Indian Navy did not fructify though Nirdesh had collaborated with the Indian Naval Academy on various occasions.

A ray of hope emerged when Nirmala Sitharaman became Defence Minister. Her elevation as Finance Minister also offered to bring the project out of the woods. But its fate still hangs in the balance.

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