(This was originally posted in The New Indian Express by Ramu Patil)
The defence public sector undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has been hit badly by Covid-19, which has claimed the lives of at least 100 of its employees, infected 4,000 others, and impacted crucial defence projects, like the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas and Light Combat Helicopter (LCH).
HAL Chairman and Managing Director R Madhavan said, “Once deliveries happen, maybe the sales will recover. Man hours lost have to be recovered through extra effort. We were affected badly as a large number of our employees were infected.” But, Madhavan said, the long-term project performance of Light Combat Aircraft will not be affected as they will have enough time to recover and meet the timelines.
But, Madhavan said, the long-term project performance of LCA will not be affected as they will have enough time to recover and meet the timelines. But the Covid-triggered mayhem has led to a severe disruption in the supply chain, both within and outside the country. “The supply chain has to get back in shape quickly, including the supply of raw material from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) from within and outside India. If these two happen, we should be able to meet our goals. There should not be any disruptions beyond July which is crucial,” he said.
“The production activity for the last two months has been less. Though employees are working, we depend on material coming from vendors and that has not happened to the extent we had expected. As international flight operations were disrupted, the supply of material from OEMs aboard too got affected. Hopefully, things will improve,” he said.The fallout is this: Four LCAs that are ready are yet to be handed over to the Indian Air Force; the Dornier aircraft project has been hit as material is not coming from Line Replacement Units; and the LCH orders from the Centre have been delayed.
Many employees at the Helicopters Final Build Area tested positive and they were forced to stop even the flight trials. Employees at Bengaluru, Nasik, Kanpur and Lucknow units have been hit badly, forcing the defence PSU to stop operations for two weeks in May. “The first quarter will be a bit disappointing as far as financials are concerned. Hopefully, things will improve from next week and we would be able to recover like last time,” Madhavan said.