Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday assured the Rajya Sabha that the defence forces are “sufficiently equipped” with ammunition, after opposition members raised concerns over ammunition shortage quoting a recent report of the central auditor.
A report of the Comptroller and Auditor General last week pointed out that the Indian Army is battling critical shortage of ammunition, especially for its tanks and artillery, and 121 out of the total 152 types of munition do not meet the minimum levels needed to fight a full-scale war.
Raising the issue in the Upper House soon after it met on Tuesday, Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav said the shortage was a serious issue as tension continues along the border with both Pakistan and China.
“There is tension on the border, we know what China and Pakistan are doing. What is the reason that we do not have ammunition for more than 10 days,” he said.
Jaitley however said the report was in reference to a “particular point in time”.
“A particular report was given in 2013, as a follow-up of that another report has been submitted recently, it will probably be taken up before the PAC. We don’t discuss CAG report but I don’t want to rest on that technicality,” Jaitley said.
“The report has reference in relation to a particular point of time. Substantially thereafter significant progress has been made. Thereafter procedures have been simplified, powers have been decentralised and the armed forces are reasonably and sufficiently equipped - that we assure this House,” he said.
The government has recently delegated power to the Vice Chief of Army to directly procure 46 types of ammunition to fight short and “intense wars” without going to the Defence Ministry.
Last year, emergency procurement of weaponry worth Rs 20,000 crore was cleared after the terror attack on an army base in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, on September 18, 2016.
Congress leader Anand Sharma said the decision to decentralise ammunition purchase power was recent. He said the government had not done anything for the last three years. He slammed former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and called him a “non performer”.
“We want to know specifically when was this procedure simplified. It was only ten days back... The government has now taken a decision. It is not like you are buying ice cream... For three years nothing was done. Parrikar was a non performer,” Sharma said.
The CAG report also pointed towards the insufficient steps taken after 2013 to improve the ammunition stock of the forces. As per the operational requirements target set for 2019, the Army should be equipped with ammunition which could last for ‘40-days of intense war’.