The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence on Thursday pointed out the bizarre reality that this year’s defence budget is not sufficient to meet even the committed liabilities in the case of the Navy.
Overall the committee observed that the budgetary provisions for 2017-18 as well as the “dismal status of capital procurements” do not reciprocate the “seriousness” required towards meeting defence needs.
“This year, the allocation is ₹18,000 crore in the capital budget, whereas the committed liabilities itself are to the extent of ₹22,000 crore,” the report noted about the Navy. This means that the allocation would not be sufficient to pay for the deals already contracted.
These observations were part of Report no. 29 on ‘Demands and Grants’ tabled in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.
In the case of the Army, the committee observed that the Army is expected to meet the vast responsibilities of ensuring external and internal security and for that, it is “quintessence” that Army personnel be equipped with the latest state-of-the-art equipment, but said the plummeting trend in funding does not reciprocate the huge expectations laid upon the Service.
“The Committee views this as a dichotomy and feel that the situation merits immediate attention…,” it noted.
For the Army, against the capital allocation of ₹25,254 crore, the committed liability being carried forward from 2016-17 to 2017-18 itself amounts to ₹ 23,000 crore.
For the Air Force, the report noted that the budget allocated exclusively for ‘new schemes’ is only ₹4,000 crore, which it noted would “hamper the modernisation drive” of the force as expenses related to the procurement of aircraft and related equipment are high cost in nature.
Make in India
The Committee also pulled up the defence ministry on its ‘Make in India’ initiative. In 2016-17, a total budget of ₹ 22,222,34 crore was actually spent on modernisation by the Air Force, of which the report said only ₹268.10 crore, that is, about1% of the ‘spending’, was signed with Indian vendors.
“The Committee is perturbed to observe that the statistics do not resonate with the conceptual emphasis of the Government on ‘Make in India’,” it said.
The Committee also took serious note of the fact that while on one hand, “the Ministry of Finance cites the slow pace of spending as the reason for making lower allocations, on the other, there are some crucial proposals lying with the Ministry and are pending approval.”