After Removing Sloth And Mediocrity Now DRDO produces a glitch free ARJUN MK 1A tank
The DRDO had the “ Chalta Hai “ attitude and the clue less or the crafty Ministry of Defence just wanted to foist on the Army whatever scrap the Avadi tank makers produced. The politicians could not care any less. However the Army resisted and just refused to take over the low quality, over weight tanks being thrust on it, in the name of indiginization. After all they were responsible not only for the defence of India but also their life would be at stake.
The charioteers, the army men who were to ride Arjun, had solid doubts about the tank and they even put it in writing. The MoD roped in every PM since Narasimha Rao to ask the Army to accept the low quality ARJUN. As part of political gimmick, Rao rode it in 1996 and ‘dedicated’ it to the nation.
Feeling frustrated under combined pressure, the Army ordered 120 ARJUN MK1 tanks to equip two Armoured Regiments. Atal Bihari Vajpayee got it displayed in the R-Day parade. Manmohan Singh’s defence ministers Pranab Mukherjee and AK Antony tried to talk the generals into buying Arjuns in squadrons; Pranab even ‘handed over’ one to Gen. NC Vij in 2004. However the performance of ARJUN in the heat of Jaisalmer was just not good enough to place orders for more. Army knew from past experience that once orders were placed for more, then the “ Chalta Hai “ attitude would prevail at every level and Army will be saddled with a third rate tank to face the next “ Battle of Longewala “. So it just dug in its heal for a long war of slander.
On every one of those occasions where Prime Minister or the Raksha Mantri publicly rode the ARJUN ( as if this would make it fit for Combat ), the MoD and the DRDO publicly praised the tank, talked of the virtues of indigenisation, spelt out the need for self-reliance, and got themselves photographed with the tank. However the Army returned the machines every time to the workshops, citing inaccuracy of the gun, overheating in the desert, erratic fire control system, poor suspension, unreliable gunner’s sight and Scores of other minor but important glitches. After all one single glitch in the heat of battle would be enough to get the entire crew killed. Loss of One tank during the crucial phase of battle could invite even complete disastour.
So the MoD had no choice but to order the the scientists to go back to the drawing boards and rectify the flaws. Meanwhile their lethargy would result in import orders for hundreds for T-72s and T-90s.In spite of years spent in making Vijayants and T72s the Heavy Vehicle factory still wallowed in shoddiness.
Apart from the numerous major and minor imperfections,the tanks were also just too heavy for rail rakes and border bridges to take them. And, while the scientists were taking too long in the labs, newer technologies were coming into the market making Arjun obsolete.
However since 2014 things started changing. The Atmanirbhar clarion call given by the PM began to be enforced. So when Prime Minister rode an Arjun at Longewala in November, he had ensured that the DRDO had done its work. Last Sunday, he handed over an Arjun MK-1A to Army chief Gen. MM Naravane, dedicating “to the country one more warrior to protect our frontiers.”
To the credit of the Scientists, the DRDO nerds who were building a complex battle tank in a country that had not built even its first motor car, had claimed it was the world’s best tank. If it was not, they could work further on it to make it the best. They have now kept their word. The ARJUN MK1A has all the glitches removed and so even with its heavier weight, it can do the job Very well in the Desert Sector. Army has already placed orders to equip two more Regiments. More should follow once the ARJUN MK2 version with latest systems and reduced weight enters the scene.
Once the “ frustrated” Arjun’s creator, DRDO chief M Natarajan, had broken into tears in a MoD meeting where “ snooty” generals who were responsible for the life of their men under command, rubbished the tank. Another time the scientists, even alleged sabotage by vested import interests, threatened to insert black box-like bugs in the tank to monitor mischief during user trials.
Anyway, all has ended well and hopefully a smiling Natrajan prevails upon his team to produce an excellent ARJUN MK2.Our bravehearts, too, will have their finest hour—when they know that our own wise Scientists too care for their lives.