House panel irked at falling defence funds

The panel observation came after it was apprised that out of total defence production, around 40 per cent is produced indigenously while 60 per cent is imported. DH file photo of a Sukhoi 30-MKI performing at Aero India 2017.

Noting with concern the falling defence budget, a Parliamentary panel has expressed “unhappiness” in particular over the “abysmally low” and “continuously declining” share of capital expenditure out of the total Defence Service Expenditure.

The report of the Estimate Committee which was presented before Parliament on Wednesday and reported by DH on May 23 at its draft stage, notes with concern that the “defence expenditure at 1.56% of GDP in 2017-18 was at the lowest level since 1962 when India and China war was fought.”

The panel chaired by BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi that examined the issue of “preparedness of armed forces- defence production and procurement” noted that the defence exependiture vis a vis GDP has ranged between 2.06% in 2014- 15 to 1.56% in 2017-18.

Giving details of the decline in the share of capital expenditure, the panel flagged that while it was 39 per cent of the total defence services expenditure in 2012-13 and 2013-14, it came down to 33% and 34% respectively in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

“What is more worrisome is the situation whereby the procurement has to be adjusted as per the budgetary allocations made by the government, which are not as per the requirements projected as per the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP),” the panel said.

It observed that since allocations under capital head are made for procurements of defence equipment, weaponry, aircraft, naval ships etc, any decrease in capital expenditure has an adverse impact on modernisation process of our forces and “tantamount to compromising safety and security” of the country.

It also impressed upon the “urgent need to replace the obsolete armaments with the state of art weapon systems” for which “substantial increase in the capital budget is essential”.

Terming the present situation “unacceptable” whereby the allocations are not being made as LTIPP, the panel recommended that capital procurement budget should be in consonance with projections made by the services as per the LTIPP.

It said the government should take “urgent and immediate steps” to decrease India’s dependence on imports in the defence sector and noted with concern “indigenisation level in the defence sector is increasing at a very slow rate.”

The panel observation came after it was apprised that out of total defence production, around 40 per cent is produced indigenously while 60 per cent is imported. The panel sought “clear-cut road map” and “effective monitoring” to meet the objectives of the draft Defence Production Policy 2018 put before it.

On the functioning of Defence Research and Development Organisation, the panel said it needs a “major overhaul” as it “has not been able to meet nation’s expectations” and the country has to depend on foreign suppliers not just for sophisticated weapons but also for basic defence armaments. The panel also said that the end users-the three services- must be consulted on areas of research and development of weapon systems.

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House panel irked at falling defence funds

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