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Defence Minister exhorts MSMEs to make India 'Atma Nirbhar' in defence tech, products

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NEW DELHI (PTI): Acknowledging that defence manufacturing has been adversely affected due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has exhorted MSMEs to make India Atma Nirbhar' (self-reliant) in defence technology and products.

Addressing MSMEs E-conclave via video conferencing last week, Singh termed micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) the backbone of Indian economy that accelerate GDP growth, earn valuable foreign exchange through exports and provide employment opportunities.

Asserting that keeping MSMEs strong is one of the priorities of the government, he said there are more than 8,000 MSMEs, tiered partners of many defence organisations - ordnance factories, DPSUs and service organisations.

They contribute more than 20 per cent of the total production of these organisations, Singh said at the conclave jointly organised by Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Department of Defence Production.

Citing the example of the United States where the domestic defence industry developed within a short span of two years during World War-II, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said India should have its own defence industry.

He urged the MSMEs to work for placing India among the top 10 nations in defence technologies.

The Defence Minister hailed the role played by SIDM and other MSMEs in the nation's fight against global coronavirus pandemic.

I am very happy to know that SIDM has accelerated the manufacturing of DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) designed PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) kits, masks, ventilator parts in the field of defence industry by efficient coordination and channelisation," Singh was quoted as saying in a statement.

"Within less than two months, we have not only met our domestic demand, but we can also think of helping neighbouring countries in the coming time," he said.

Acknowledging the hardships faced by the defence industry, Singh said, "The manufacturing sector has been affected the most due to lockdown and disruption in existing supply chains and the defence sector is no exception to this."

"Rather, it can be said that the defence sector is more aggravated than other sectors as the only buyer of defence products is the government," he said.

Singh assured that the 'Aatma Nirbhar Bharat' campaign, inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will provide many opportunities to Indian industry and will help in restoring millions of jobs.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for being 'vocal for local' in this direction. I would like to say that we have to have our indigenous products, i.e. 'vocal for local', but before that in our own life, 'local' has to be focal. That is, we have to adopt 'swadeshi' products in our life," he said.

His comments came days after Prime Minister Modi pitched for making India self-reliant by turning the coronavirus crisis into an opportunity through sustained focus on making the Indian economy globally competitive.

There is no doubt that MSMEs have a very important role in the goal of indigenous manufacturing, and in the goal of making India self-reliant, he said.

Singh highlighted some of the measures announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman under the 'Aatma Nirbhar Bharat' scheme such as collateral free loan of 3 lakh crores for MSMEs - which he said will be effective in re-establishing about 45 lakh units and saving employment.

Subordinate debt provision of Rs 20,000 crore has been announced for two lakh MSMEs, this will help stressed MSMEs, Singh said.

Equity infusion of Rs 50,000 crore will be provided through 'Mother-Daughter Fund' for the purpose of benefiting the needy MSMEs, he said.

A Rs 10,000 crore 'Fund of Funds' will be set up to help increase the capacity of these units and for marketing, he said.

The theme of the E-conclave was Business Continuity for MSMEs in Defence & Aerospace Sector' in which more than 800 Defence MSMEs participated.

Secretary (Defence Production) Raj Kumar, in his address, highlighted the measures taken to alleviate the hardships faced by the defence manufacturing industry due to COVID-19.

He said the DPSUs have been asked to clear payments of MSMEs, and also announced that their production targets have not been scaled down.

Citing the reforms recently announced by the Finance Minister, he said these measures will help realise the target of achieving a US$ 25 billion defence production by 2025.

SIDM President Jayant D Patil, former SIDM president Baba N Kalyani, Director General of CII Chandrajit Banerjee, senior civil and military officials of MoD, Ordnance Factory Board and DPSUs were also present on the occasion.

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