In its strongest take on the Modi govt, Army tells parliamentary panel that 68% of its equipment is vintage, and Make in India is stillborn.
New Delhi: The Army does not have enough money to pay for emergency purchases that it made in the aftermath of the Uri attack, the surgical strikes, and the Doklam standoff, nor are there adequate resources to undertake the construction of strategic roads on the China border.
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.
Sharing his frustration that funds allocated this year will not even be adequate to pay for instalment payments of past purchase, Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen. Sarath Chand has told the panel that at present, 68 per cent of its equipment is in the ‘vintage category’. The parliamentary panel is headed by BJP veteran Maj. Gen. B.C. Khanduri (retd).
Everything is stalled
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. Similarly, emergency purchases were also initiated after the Doklam stand off last year with Chinese troops.
“Allocation of Rs 21,338 crore for modernisation is insufficient even to cater for committed payments of Rs 29,033 crore for 123 on-going schemes, emergency procurements and other requirements,” Lt. Gen. Chand has told the panel.
The Army has informed the government that currently, most of the equipment it holds can be categorised as vintage. “As far as we are concerned, the state today is 68 per cent of our equipment is in the vintage category, with just about 24 per cent in the current and 8 per cent in the state-of-the-art category,” the officer informed the panel.
Stating that the low budget would also have an adverse impact on Make in India initiatives, the Vice Chief said that the 25 projects that it has selected will not be rolled out. “There isn’t adequate budget to support this. As a result, many of these may end up foreclosed,” he said.
The low budget this year – the Army has been given Rs 17, 756 crore less than what it had requested for – will have severe consequences for the China border as well, as strategic work will be stalled.
“We have a large number of Chinese strategic roads and also infrastructural development along the northern borders. For these infrastructure developments, the allocation is falling short by around Rs 902 crore from what we have demanded,” the Vice Chief said.
Skewed defence budget
As reported by ThePrint, the Indian defence budget is now dangerously skewed as the revenue bill has zoomed over the years. 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.
The parliamentary standing committee on defence has been a strong advocate of creating a non-lapsable, roll-over fund for modernisation of the armed forces, which would collect all unspent amount from the defence capital budget at the end of a financial year into a corpus that can be used for future purchases.
While this concept was given a go-ahead by the defence ministry last year, the finance ministry has resisted all moves to set it up.