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Modi Govt Has Rs 5,000 Cr to Spend on Advertisement, But Doesn’t Have Funds For Salary, Emoluments and Weaponry of Soldiers: Congress

Randeep Singh Surjewala said last year's defence budget was 1.58 per cent (Rs 2,85,423 crore) of GDP, the lowest allocation since 1962.

New Delhi: The Congress on Tuesday accused the Modi government of “politicising” the armed forces and compromising national security by “lowering” the morale of soldiers and insulting them through cuts in their spending.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said “empty slogans” and “fake chest thumping” characterised the government’s narrative towards defence forces in the past five years.

“They have sought to deeply politicise the blood and sacrifice of our armed forces and have taken systematic steps to lower the morale of our valiant soldiers.

“Budgetary cuts, lop-sided policy decisions and apathy towards the welfare of defence personnel and war veterans have been the cornerstone of Modi government’s military policy,” he said in a statement.

The Congress leader said last year’s defence budget was merely 1.58 pc (Rs 2,85,423 crore) of GDP, the “lowest” allocation since 1962.

“(And) the interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal in his interim budget speech 2019-20 boastfully said ‘our defence budget will be crossing Rs 3,00,000 crore for the first time in 2019-20’. The fact of the matter is that the budgetary allocation for 2019-2020 has witnessed a meagre increase of 6.69 pc.”

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“The share of the defence budget in total GDP has been on a free fall since the Congress-UPA demitted office. Why?

“The Modi government has Rs 5,000 crore to spend on its self-promotion, publicity and advertisement blitzing, but doesn’t have money for the salary, emoluments and weaponry of our jawans at the border. Only 70 days are left, and people of India have already started showing the exit route to the Modi government,” he claimed.

Surjewala said the Principal Comptroller of Defence Accounts (PCDA), Pune, the agency that disburses salaries and emoluments to officers, has now taken a decision to freeze the temporary allowances paid to officers when they travel for purposes such as tours and training.

“The Army has 40,000 officers and at any given time, at least 1,000 officers are on the move or on ‘temporary duty’ to attend courses, planning conferences, Court of Inquiries, or exercises among other things.

“Modi government is a habitual offender in insulting the armed forces by ‘back door’ cuts in spending,” he said.

The Congress leader also alleged that in January 2019, it was reported that the Ministry of Defence owed dues of Rs 1,600 crore for completion of military infrastructure, putting the security of military installations in jeopardy.

“Why isn’t the Modi government releasing these funds,” he asked.

He also alleged that the Defence Ministry has not cleared the pending dues of Rs 2,000 crore to the Military Engineer Services Builders Association of India, for installing the hangers for Rafale aircraft purchased from France, the first of which is to arrive in September this year.

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The Association has now threatened to protest against the Modi government, he said, alleging that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, first gave a lame-duck excuse that the Air Force did not have ‘requisite infrastructure’ and ‘parking space’ for 126 Rafales (that were under UPA deal); now Modi government hasn’t even sanctioned funds for the creation of Rafale hangers.

“Why did Modi government impose monthly limits on the quantity of items that can be purchased by individuals from Canteen Stores Department (CSD) outlets, that caters to serving and retired personnel who draw their remuneration from defence estimates,” he said.

Surjewala also asked if it is correct that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, headed by Major General BC Khanduri, “exposed the shameful state of neglect” towards the requirements of the armed forces, pointing out that 68 pc of Army’s equipment is vintage; with no money for emergency weapons purchase.

“Is it true that there ain’t enough resources to undertake the construction of strategic roads near the China border? Why are the armed forces so cash starved that the 2018 parliamentary standing report had to highlight that due to lack of arsenal and ammunition it will be difficult for us to sustain a 10-day war,” he asked.

He also asked why is the Army forced to cut supplies by 50 pc from Ordnance Factories and why the Modi government withdrew the medical benefits/pensions to the jawans who have served the nation under Short Service Commission.

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