A cash-strapped Narendra Modi government couldn't provide more than Rs one lakh crore to the Army, Air Force and Navy in 2019-20, forcing the three services to “reprioritise” their requirements.
The shortfall was maximum for the Indian Air Force (Rs 53,035 crore) followed by the Army (Rs 30,687 crore) and Navy (Rs 23,048 crore), according to a report by a panel of lawmakers who scrutinised the defence budget of the current fiscal.
The impact is being felt in almost area ranging from the modernisation of the forces and its daily needs to training and sprucing up of the infrastructure such as strategic roads near the Sino-Indian border and the long-delayed Rohtang tunnel.
Though the Army sources were hopeful of receiving additional support in the supplementary budget, the data shared with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence revealed that in the last two fiscals, the defence ministry did not receive any additional allocation at the supplementary stage.
At the beginning of the year, the Indian Army projected a requirement of Rs 1,98,964 crore but received only Rs 1,68,277 crore in the budget – a shortfall of Rs 30,687 crore. Similarly the IAF asked for Rs 1,22,984 crore and got Rs 69,949 crore – a deficit of Rs 53,035 crore, which is the maximum among the three services.
Only a small part of the money is spent on buying weapons and improve the infrastructure whereas the lion's share is used in paying the salary bill.
In a similar line, Indian Navy projected demand of Rs 64,307 crore but got only Rs 41,259 crore – a deficiency of Rs 23,048 crore.
With 120 extra-regional warships operating in the Indian Ocean, such budgetary shortfall led to “critical capability void” that needed to be addressed, Navy officials told the MPs.
In his annual press conference earlier this month, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh aired his concerns on a declining budget. “Navy's share in defence budget has declined in the last few years. From 18%, it has come down to 13% in the recent years,” he stated.
While the naval fleet is critically short of multi-role helicopters, the blue water force is also handicapped by the shortage of mine countermeasure vessels, landing platform dock, survey ships while its submarines are 17-31 years and need replacement.
The IAF faces a double whammy. Not only it received substantially less from the government, it spent far more to maintain an ageing fleet in the absence of any new induction. This year, the force projected a requirement of Rs 81,302 crore in the capital segment, but the allocation was a mere Rs 39,347 crore – a deficit of Rs 41,955 crore.
“The Committee are baffled to find out that the IAF modernisation budget in the last year of 11th plan in 2011-12 (Rs 26,640 crore) grew negligibly to Rs 26,895 crore in 2016-17, which was the last year of the 12th plan period,” the Standing Committee wrote in its report submitted to the Speaker this week.