V. Sridhar

Bangalore: The Centre of Indian Trade unions (CITU) has sought the “intervention” of Defence Minister A.K. Antony in retaining Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) as the nodal agency for the development of the Tactical Communication System (TCS) for the armed forces.

In a letter to Mr. Antony on Thursday, CITU president M.K. Pandhe, referred to “recent disquieting reports” about the possibility of orders worth more than Rs.5,000 crore relating to the TCS project being placed with a company associated with a leading private Indian conglomerate.

Sources in BEL told The Hindu that the TCS was planned as a communications network for the armed forces for use in tactical warfare. The network seeks to integrate video, voice and data communications using suitable encryption.

Dr. Pandhe alleged that the “backdoor entry” of the private entities, citing the need for increased competition, “appears to be aimed at induction of an imported system through an Indian company at the cost of jeopardising the sensitive strategic communication system of the Army, as well as the security of the country.”

Dr. Pandhe alleged that as a result of “backdoor manoeuvring,” BEL did not find representation on a “feasibility committee” constituted by the Integrated Defence Staff.

Instead, industry representatives were represented on the committee that amounted to “a clear case of conflict of interest.” Dr. Pandhe said that BEL had been developing the TCS since 1997, in consultation with the Army, and in coordination with the Defence Research and Development Organisation. He sought Mr. Antony’s intervention so “indigenous self-reliance and national security are not compromised.”