Changing with times
Challenges in the form of liberalisation and global competition have steeled the units' resolve to surge ahead.
JAWAHARLAL Nehru described them as the `temples of modern India' when they were established in the formative years of the nation after Independence. The public sector undertakings (PSUs) have come a long way since then and emerged as entities that have to compete with the best business houses in the world. But the past 15 years since the opening up of the economy have been the most challenging for them.
While some of the units have adapted themselves to the changed environment characterised by shrinking markets, increased competition and near absence of government protection, others have floundered and are hoping to receive relief from the government.
Says Gopala Rao: "Our recent state-of-the-art short-range battlefield surveillance radar, which can be carried by three people, installed in five minutes and has a range of around four kilometres has been a great success. Having already delivered a thousand of these radars to the Army, we are demonstrating it successfully to friendly countries in South Asia and on the African continent. Indonesia has bought two and might increase this to 50. Trials of the bulk production phase models of our 3D long-range central acquisition radar are also under way. The government has already approved the sale of seven of these ground or vehicle-mounted radars to the Air Force and two to the Navy."
For the Indian Army, BEL has also started manufacturing secure (not just scrambled) hand-held portable radio receivers and the Stars V Mark 2 transreceiver, which incorporates `frequency hopping' technology (the frequency changes 250 times a second, which helps encrypt both the message and the signal).
With wars increasingly being fought after sundown, BEL has stepped up its development and production of electro-optic products, especially those based on image intensifiers and infrared detection technologies. BEL's radar warning receivers have been fitted on the Indian Air Force's fighter aircraft.
BEL achieved exports of $12.5 million during 2004-05. The defence PSU exported a range of products to various countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia, Botswana, Egypt, Suriname, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Israel and the US.
The important export orders executed during 2004-05 include
>supply of spares of 3D radar TRS 2215 to the Indonesian Air Force;
>refurbishment of Cymbeline radar for Egypt;
>supply of laser range finders to Israel;
>supply of solar-powered traffic signalling system for 32 junctions to the ministry of public works, Surinam;
>supply of night vision devices and solar lanterns to the Surinam armed forces;
>supply of solar cells to Germany; and
>supply of X-ray parts to GEMS, USA.