Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar set at rest any question on the future of Yelahanka, Bengaluru as the venue for future Aero India shows emphatically at the traditional event media conference following the inaugural on Wednesday. Mr Parrikar, at the very start of his opening remarks, said: “This place is absolutely appropriate for the job since most of the aero industries and labs are located in Bangalore.”
To a pointed question later in the conference, Mr Parrikar said: “We’ll be in Bangalore… there is no requirement for another venue for the next Aero India show. There is no reason to shift it to Goa.” In a lighter vein, he added, “just because I’m from Goa, there’s no reason to think I’ll want to have the event there.” Pointing to the success of the event, he said the participation in the event had increased about 100 percent in several aspects. For instance, the space for the event had increased from about 1.25 lakh sq.ft last year to 2.50 sq.ft, he said. Also, the number of Indian companies participating in the event had nearly doubled to 296; and foreign countries, from 31 to 49, he said.
He said he was aware of complaints that the Aero India event had super-saturated the Yelahanka space, but attributed it to bad planning. “I have asked them (the organisers) to plan it properly because I see a lot of space,” he said. “The moment I landed, the doubt whether or not we should shift the event to a new venue almost vanished from my mind. There is wastage of space here… perhaps, an architect or planner could be consulted for it. I don’t think (the space) is saturated,” he added. Again, in his jocular mood, he told the correspondent who asked the question: “I think that’s a headline lost.”
Sounding bullish about the event, he told another correspondent that while he could not immediately give figures of the actual cost of the event, “in terms of opportunities and exposure, I think it is a great success. It’s not just about somersaults and acrobatics of the aircraft in their demonstrations. What we have to see the quantum of business the event generates.”
Talking about the defence ministry’s decision to purchase 388 helicopters of different kinds this year, Mr Parrikar was full of praise for the demonstration of capability of the Advanced Light Helicoper (ALH) (as well as the Light Combat Aircraft – Tejas) manufactured by HAL in Bengaluru. But, to a question whether this would bring HAL more strongly into the Make In India strategy, Mr Parrikar was candid: “HAL’s helicopters, two or three of them, are of good quality. But HAL’s rate of production is very low. Our defence needs cannot be met with the production of just 20 or 30 helicopters in a year. This has to be scaled up to 50 or even 100.” He revealed that he had advised HAL to look at other manufacturing bases among its nearly 20 units in the country if the facilities in Bengaluru were saturated.
When asked whether the defence ministry had considered HAL’s request to allow it manufacture Tejas from a new production line in Bengaluru itself, Mr Parrikar joked: “Has HAL asked you to put this question to me. The chairman is here. Let him ask me. If they need (the order), we’ll give it to them. They are a corporate…I have no objection if they give us more planes.”