Panel raps MoD for arms procurement mess

Tiff between Ministry of Defence and Army on budget spend

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has rapped the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for its failure to properly plan the schemes for procurement of arms and ammunition for the Army, which is running short of fire power.

A tiff between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Army also surfaced at the Parliamentary Standing Committee meeting where the Army complained that it did not receive adequate funding from the ministry to buy arms and ammunition. The Army contested the MoD claims of not being able to spend the allocated money and pointed out that its capital budget is on the wane. The committee sided with the Army and rapped the MoD for its failure to properly plan the procurement schemes.

One of the consequences of the tussle is the ministry’s failure to procure 1.86 lakh bulletproof jackets for the soldiers though it was approved by the defence acquisition council in 2009.

Accusing the ministry of putting the lives of soldiers at risk, the panel said it was not happy with the state of affairs in the MoD where such an important purchase could not be realised in five years.

In the last six years, the gap between projected and allocated resources for capital expenses that are meant for arms purchase in the Army has increased by more than three fold. The hiatus is more than Rs 15,000 crore in the current fiscal because of which the Army is facing difficulties in getting new hardware and infrastructure.

The Defence Ministry slashed the Army’s modernisation budget in the last two years, ignoring the Army’s observations on the shortage of arms and ammunition. The Army is not only short of artillery guns, tanks and missiles but also imports as many as 30 types of ammunition.

While the MoD argued that the men in uniform could not utilise its modernisation budget fully for six years in a row beginning with 2008-09, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence blamed the MoD for not being able to plan the Army spending properly to avoid surrendering of the funds at the end of the year.

As most of the money is being spent on “committed liabilities” — payment for existing contracts — the Army is left with little money for new purchase.

The Army is also struggling as the availability of tanks is low, the panel said in its report tabled in the Parliament on Monday. While there is an effort to fill up the deficiency with indigenous main battle tank Arjun, the House panel advised the ministry to give the Army a “free hand” in choosing the tank so that “nothing should be forced on them”.
Moreover, the Army has “some deficiencies” in holding of missiles and out of 168 types of ammunition being used, as many as 30 are being imported.

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