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Parliamentary panel expresses concern over major fund shortfalls for military modernization

Source : The Times of India

Parliamentary panel expresses concern over major fund shortfalls for military modernization
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At a time when the military confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh shows no signs of de-escalation, and the China-Pakistan collusion is fast extending from the land borders to the high seas, the Indian armed forces got around Rs 63,000 crore less for modernization than what they had asked for in the 2022-2023 budget.

The Army got only Rs 32,115 crore when it had projected a requirement for Rs 46,844 core under the capital outlay. The IAF got Rs 56,852 crore instead of Rs 85,323 crore, while the Navy got Rs 47,591 crore instead of Rs 67,623 crore.

Similar shortfalls were also recorded under the revenue outlay for salaries and day-to-day operating costs. Overall, Rs 3.85 lakh crore was allocated for the defence services against a projection of Rs 4.87 lakh crore.

Taking note of the “remarkably high” gaps between projections and allocations in the capital outlays, the parliamentary standing committee on defence on Wednesday said such a situation is “not conducive for the country’s defence preparedness” when there are “heightened tensions” with both China and Pakistan.The committee, in reports tabled in Parliament, said the defence ministry (MoD) should ask the finance ministry “to not curtail the projected amounts as this results in reprioritization of schemes/activities, which might end up compromising operational preparedness”.

The aim should be to induct “capital-intensive modern machines, which are imperative to tilt the result of war in our favour and also increase the deterrence capabilities of our country”, it said. None of the three Services, in fact, have been allocated the amounts projected since 2016-2017. Referring to the sharp decline, the committee said the finance ministry “should not make any reductions while allocating the budget under capital heads” for the armed forces in the coming years.

The finance ministry should also take steps to enhance allocations at the revised estimates as well as supplementary grants stages in the 2022-2023 fiscal. The MoD, in turn, should take steps for “timely expenditure of the allocated funds in the first two quarters itself” to ensure the requirement of additional funds is assessed timely and gets the finance ministry’s approval at the supplementary grants stage.

The committee also recommended that the constitution of the `Non-Lapsable Defence Modernisation Fund – Defence Renewal Fund’ for procurement of critical military assets at critical times should be expedited.

“As the draft Cabinet note for constituting such a fund is under consideration, the committee urges that approval may be accorded expeditiously so as to fructify its creation at the earliest,” the committee said.It also recommended the MoD create separate heads for “committed liabilities”, which are payments or instalments meant for deals inked earlier, and “new schemes” in the capital outlay. The bulk of the capital allocations often go towards “committed liabilities”, leaving very little for new weapon procurements.Military modernization involves the acquisition of new state-of-the-art platforms, technologies and weapon systems to upgrade and augment combat capabilities, which is “a continuous process” based on threat perceptions, operational necessities and technological changes to keep the armed forces in a state of readiness to meet the entire spectrum of security challenges.

“The committee recommends that enhanced and adequate budgetary allocation should be made under the capital head for modernization so that the procurement and upgrading procedures are carried out without any hurdle of shortage of funds,” it said.

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