Defence budget not sufficient to cater committed payment: Army vice chief

Image for representation

Image for representation

According to media reports, the vice chief of Army Staff Lt Gen. Sarath Chand has told the parliamentary standing committee on defence that at present, 68% of its equipment is of "vintage category". "68 percent of our equipment is in the vintage category, with just about 24 percent in the current and eight percent in the state-of-the-art category", Chand said.

"Typically, any modern armed force should have one-third of forces, one-third of its equipment in the vintage category, one-third in the current category and one-third in the state-of-the-art category".

Lt Gen Chand added that the marginal increase in funds accounts only for inflation and may result in the foreclosure of 25 "Make in India" Defence projects that are now in the pipeline. "There is not adequate Budget to support the 25 "Make in India" projects", he said.

"Is the entire defence expenditure being utilized only for maintaining military? As a result, many of these may end up foreclosed", said Lt-Gen Chand.

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Lack of funds has stalled the construction of strategic roads along the China border. "Allocation of Rs 21,388 crore for modernisation is insufficient even to cater for committed payments of Rs 29.033 crore for 125 ongoing schemes, emergency procurement and other requirements", Army vice-chief told the parliamentary panel.

Top officers of IAF, Navy and Coast Guard also sounded similar alarms, leading the committee to slam the government for starving the armed forces of requisite funds for both modernization and day-to-day operational sustenance.

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".

In the most-recent defence budget, a sum of Rs 2.95 lakh crore - a hike of 7.81 per cent since last year's budget - has been outlayed which is approximately 1.58 per cent of the country's GDP. The officer said that the left money won't be sufficient for new projects.

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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. The allocated funds are not enough to even pay for "committed liabilities or instalments" of earlier arms contracts, leaving virtually nothing for new modernisation projects.

As reported by ThePrint, the Indian defence budget is now dangerously skewed as the revenue bill has zoomed over the years. "The budget for operations and maintenance is a critical component for ensuring operational preparedness at any given point of time", the committee said.

Considering that India is the biggest importer of arms in the world, the government has been pushing for indigenous arms development, which would possibly be hit by the poor budget allocations.

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