‘Ad-hocism’, and the ‘casual and lackadaisical’ approach of the government in allocating an inadequate amount for the Defence budget will hit the modernization plans and dent India’s defence preparedness as well as the morale of the armed forces, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence said on Thursday.
In a strong pitch for boosting the allocation for defence, the panel said that the defence budget of Rs 2.81 lakh crore for next fiscal is woefully inadequate to even fulfill the basic requirements of the armed forces.
The Army has got only 60 per cent of the funds it had sought for modernisation in the 2017-18 budget. The Navy and IAF, in turn, got 67 per cent and 54 per cent respectively. Out of the total defence outlay of Rs 2.74 lakh crore, only Rs 86,488 crore has been earmarked for modernization, with the bulk of this capital outlay set to go into payment of "committed liabilities" of earlier arms contracts and not for new projects.
Coming down hard on the government for the meagre increase in allocation for armed forces in the last few years, the committee differed with the Defence ministry’s assurances that the funds crunch will not suffer critical requirements of services. The panel asserted that there is no way in which inadequate allocations do not adversely defence preparedness.
"The Committee are concerned to note that the Army is operating with large scale 'vintage' equipment," it said expressing concern over lack of adequate critical weapons and surveillance systems.
As opposed to a projection of Rs 42,500 crore, the force got only Rs 25,254 as capital allocation. With committed liabilities to the tune of Rs 23,000 crore, it leaves the force with a paltry Rs 2,254 crore for new projects.
The Committee said it agreed with the Defence ministry that the marginal growth of budgetary allocation is not at all sufficient and that the Finance ministry must consider an increasing in outlay for modernisation of the services.
"The Committee are distressed to note that no positive response has been received from the Ministry of Finance regarding augmentation of budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Defence," the panel said in its report, which was tabled in Lok Sabha.
The panel headed by B C Khanduri also said the Navy has a huge requirement for capital induction as it is short of vessels, aircraft and helicopters.
"Reduction in share of Naval Budget is not desirable, especially in view of the fact that India's larger chunk of trade takes place through sea routes. Besides this, the new challenges of Navy are enormous, as the hostilities in sea by neighbouring countries have increased over the years," the panel said.
The Navy has been allocated Rs 18,000 crore as the capital budget against a committed liability of Rs 22,000 crore for 2017-18.
Contrary to its plans to be a 212-warship and 458-aircraft force by 2027, the Navy is currently managing with just 138 warships and 235 aircraft at present, with most of them ageing.
On the Indian Air Force, the Committee talked about pending contracts relating to Rafale fighter aircraft, Medium Lift Helicopter Upgrade, Transport Aircraft along with Associated Equipment as Avro Replacement, Additional Mi-17 V5, Manoeuvrable Expendable Aerial Targets (MEAT) and Weapons for Advance Light Helicopters etc.
The IAF is down to just 33 fighter squadrons against a minimum requirement of 42-44 to tackle the threat from China and Pakistan. The committee said the number of squadrons will go down to 19 by 2027, with the progressive retirement of MiG-21s, MiG-27s and MiG-29s, and may further reduce to 16 by 2032.