Indian Army cries foul over budget shortage

Defence budget has dashed our hopes of modernisation’ Indian Army tells Parliamentary panel

In its strongest take yet on the Narendra Modi govt, the Army has informed the parliamentary standing committee on defence that the budget it has been allocated this year has dashed all hopes for modernisation and its plans to roll out "Make in India" projects.

"Army's Vice Chief Lt Gen Sarath Chand has told the panel of lawmakers that the Army had identified 25 projects for Make in India as part of its modernisation plan but many of these may have to be scrapped because "there is not adequate Budget to support this". The parliamentary panel is headed by BJP veteran Maj. Gen. B.C. Khanduri (retd).

The Army had initiated a series of emergency procurements of ammunition, anti-tank missiles, rifles and stores after the Uri attack and the subsequent surgical strikes, in anticipation of increased tensions on the border. It had also started purchases of equipment after the Dokolam standoff a year ago with Chinese troops.

The Army officer said this allocation was insufficient to cater for committed payment of Rs 29,000 crore on 125 on-going schemes and would hardly leave any funds for new schemes.

The Army has informed the government that now, most of the equipment it holds can be categorised as vintage.

The army also told the panel that it was saddled with old weapons and systems - 68 % of its equipment was vintage, 24% current and only 8% state of the art. "Modernisation gets a mere 14% (of army budget), which is grossly inadequate..."

The Indian army also told the panel that it was running short of Rs 6,380 crore to build ammunition stocks necessary for fighting an intense war for 10 days. On the infrastructure front, there is a shortfall of Rs 902 crore because of which development of roads near the China border and completion of Rohtang tunnel would be affected. The vice chief also cited recent attacks on military stations by terrorists and said that there wasn't enough funds to make security arrangements for them. The story was similar under the revenue head for day-to-day operating costs, which in any case dwarfs the capital outlay in a skewed 67:37 ratio due to a ballooning salary bill. The sustained manpower-intensive nature of the services has resulted in a situation where resources available for modernisation of the forces are far outstripped by the money required to pay salaries and pensions to soldiers.

Sources said several opposition parties including the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Left and even Biju Janata Dal would take up the issue of shortage of funds - as claimed by the Army and highlighted in the Standing Committee report tabled in both Houses of Parliament on Tuesday.

The picture is indeed grim, with even defence secretary Sanjay Mitra admitting before the committee that the finance ministry "is not supporting the defence ministry as per its requirements".



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