Indian Army cries foul over budget shortage

Indian Army cries foul over budget shortage

In a candid submission, Indian Army Vice Chief Lt Gen Sarath Chand has told Parliamentarians that the 2018-19 budget was a setback for the forces as the money sanctioned for capital purchase was not sufficient even to pay for ongoing projects, leaving barely anything for new procurement.

"The budget of 2018-19 has dashed our hopes and most of what has been achieved has actually received a little setback," Lt Gen Chand said in his deposition before the Parliament Standing Committee on Defence that tabled its report in Parliament on Tuesday.

Chand said the Army was allocated Rs 21,338 crore for modernisation, which is insufficient as Rs 29,033 crore is required to pay for 125 on-going purchases.

In addition, there are emergency procurements, ammunition purchase for 10 days of intense war and other ordnance factory requirements. "There is an overall shortfall of around Rs 12,296 crore as far as capital is concerned," he said.

Justice delayed

Failing to pay in time, Chand reminded, might lead to "legal issues of not making payments in time", besides making the equipment unusable in the absence of timely servicing.

The insufficient budget was given to the Army at a time when the Pakistan border has turned red hot with the two nations firing on each other regularly.

On the eastern front, China is becoming increasingly assertive as seen during a 72-day face off at Doklam last year.

Capital acquisition is not the only segment affected by the budget cut. 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.

In the wake of an audacious terrorist attack on an Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir in September 2016, the Defence Ministry delegated financial powers up to Rs 14,097 crore for immediate purchase of ammunition and other equipment to secure the military stations.

"However, there is no separate allocation for this. So, this money is also to be found from the same Budget leaving 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 acquisition," Chand said.

No take off  

Though the Army has identified 25 Make in India projects, none of them can take off for want of funds. As a result, nearly 68% of the equipment used by the Army is in the vintage category with just about 24% current and 8% state of the art.

This is in sharp contrast to any modern force which should have 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, he told the lawmakers.

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