Preparedness, Make in India top priority, says Sitharaman

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 08 Sep 2017 09:06:51


Delhi Bureau and Agencies,


NIRMALA Sitharaman (58), on Thursday assumed charge as India’s first full-time woman Defence Minister, and asserted she would be a “round-the-clock” Minister, with focus on preparedness of the Armed Forces, welfare of soldiers and indigenous defence production.
Sitharaman was received at South Block, which houses the Defence Ministry, by predecessor Arun Jaitley, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre, Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra, Secretary Defence Production A.K. Gupta, Chairman DRDO S. Christopher and other senior officials.

Two priests conducted prayers in the Defence Minister’s chamber before Sitharaman assumed charge. Her parents were present on the occasion.
“I shall ensure that all defence priorities are well attended to. I will be available round the clock,” Sitharaman said after taking charge.

“My priority will definitely be the preparedness of the Armed Forces. It is important that the Armed Forces receive all the attention in terms of getting necessary endowment and equipment to perform their duties with the best of equipment available,” she said.

The Minister said indigenous manufacturing in defence will be one of the key areas for her, as envisioned in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship Make in India programme.
Pointing out that India was one of the biggest defence equipment buyers in the world, Sitharaman said domestic defence production will receive a boost due to technology transfer to the country.

She said the welfare of soldiers and their families was also one of her top priorities. “Although I am saying this at the end, certainly not least in importance is the Armed Forces’ families and their welfare.”

“Soldiers (deployed) on the toughest border, challenging situations, should remain absolutely assured that their interests are being watched.”
The new Defence Minister approved a grant of around Rs 13 crore for 8,685 ex-servicemen, widows and dependents from the Armed Forces Flag Day Fund. She also approved financial assistance out of the Raksha Mantri Ex-Servicemen Fund, a statement said.

Sitharaman, a former Commerce and Industry Minister, was elevated to Cabinet Minister rank and given charge of the crucial defence portfolio in Sunday’s Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
She could not take charge until Thursday as Arun Jaitley, who was holding additional charge of Defence, was on a visit to Japan for a bilateral dialogue.

Sitharaman is the first woman to hold full-time charge of the defence portfolio. In the past, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi held the portfolio twice — from December 1 to December 21, 1975, and January 14, 1980, to January 15, 1982.

Sitharaman has now become member of the crucial Cabinet Committee on Security. Its members include the Prime Minister, Home Minister, External Affairs Minister and the Finance Minister.