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Budget dashed our hopes: Army

| | New Delhi

The Army has raised red flag over unsatisfactory Budget allocation for the next fiscal, saying “Budget has dashed our hopes,” and it may be forced to close down as many as 25 ‘Make in India’ projects. Deposing before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Sarath Chand also said there is no separate allocation for ensuring the safety of Army camps, which have been subjected to several ‘fidayeen’ attacks.  The committee also noted in its report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday that in case of Navy, dismal allocation will have “cascading” impact on operational preparedness and technological upgradation.

Highlighting the shortage of funds to sustain modernisation and operational preparedness, the Vice Chief informed the Parliamentary Panel headed by BJP leader Major General BC Khanduri(retired) that at present 68 per cent of its equipment is in the “vintage” category.

“However, the Budget of 2018-2019 has dashed our hopes and most of what has been achieved has actually received a little set back. The marginal increase in Budget estimate barely accounts for the inflation and does not cater for the taxes. Allocation of Rs 21,338 crore for modernisation is insufficient even to cater for the committed payment of Rs 29,033 crore for 125 ongoing schemes and emergency procurements,” the Vice Chief said in his deposition to the committee on the issue of capital outlay on Defence services.

Faced with China’s vastly superior infrastructure along the 4,000 km long Line of Actual Control (LAC), including roads, the Vice Chief said, “We have a large number of strategic roads and also infrastructural development along that border. For these infrastructure developments, the allocation is falling short by around Rs 902 crore from what we have demanded. So, there is an overall shortfall of around Rs 12,296 crore as far as capital is concerned.”

Even as the Parliamentary Panel expressed concern over terrorist attacks on Army establishments, including the Sunjawan camp in Jammu last month, Chand said the Defence Ministry empowered the Vice Chief to spend as much as Rs 14,097 crore towards security issues. However, there is no separate allocation for this, he noted adding “so this money also to be found from the same Budget leaving with us with no choice but to re-prioritise either to reduce our requirement as far as the security of military stations are concerned or to go slow on some other acquisitions.”

In its observations on this issue, the Parliamentary Panel said the latest attack underscores the need for speedy measures which go beyond “inquiries” and “policy announcements” so as to overhaul the security system. The implementation needs to be broad based and go beyond “ad hoc measures,” it said. The panel concurred with the Vice Chief’s views for having separate funds for security of military installations adding it is essential to ensure that there is no “laxity” or “incorrect” spending of the Budget allocations.  However, the budgetary provisions made under the demands for grants 2018-19 do not reciprocate the “seriousness” required towards meeting perimeter security, the panel said.

As regards inadequate budgetary allocation, the panel noted that the Army projected Rs 1,96,387.36 crore (revenue and capital). The allocation made against this projection is Rs 1,53, 875.22 crore. This amounts to a shortfall of Rs 42,512.14 crore or a Budget deficit of nearly 23 per cent vis-à-vis the projection. 

Keeping in view the increasing threat perception including external strife and internal dissidence such as Doklam, increased external activities in Tibet over a year, rampant cross border firing and militant activities, the current budget is not supportive to the inevitable needs of the army, the Standing Committee said. Coming to the Navy, the panel noted that the Navy’s capital Budget has declined from 12.81 per cent in the year 2012-13 to 7.46 per cent in the year 2017-18. “This data itself is reflective of the unsympathetic attitude” towards the modernisation drive of the Naval forces, it observed.

Noting the grossly dismal scenario, the committee said this may lead to delay in induction of “critical capabilities” and resultant cost overruns. A Budget deficit of nearly 40 per cent will “indeed” have a “cascading” impact on the operational preparedness and technological upgradation of the Navy, the panel said. The Navy made a projection of Rs 33,458 crore for 2018-19 but got only Rs 20,003.71 crore.



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