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Modi govt’s budget has dashed our hopes, what has been achieved has received a setback: Army Vice Chief

The oral deposition of the Vice Chief of the Army Staff, Lt General Sarath Chand before the parliamentary standing committee where he says that Modi government has deprived the army of funds.

A new defence procurement policy to streamline the procedures, delegation of emergency procurement powers to Vice Chief of Army Staff as also delegation of powers to purchase up to 10 (I) of ammunition, armaments, and spares are some of the steps that have been taken. Besides this, a series of systems and structural reforms in consultation with the Ministry of Defence has also empowered us to fully utilise our allocation. However, the Budget of 2018-19 has dashed our hopes and most of what has been achieved has actually received a little set back,” these are the opening lines of the vice chief of the army staff, Lt General Sarath Chand when he spoke as a representative of the Indian Army before the parliamentary standing committee on defence at 11 am on February 15.

No money for already contracted items
“To highlight a few cases, the marginal increase in BE barely accounts for the inflation and does not even cater for the taxes. Allocation of Rs. 21,338 Crore for modernisation is insufficient even to cater for committed payment ofRs. 29,033 Crore for 125 on-going schemes, emergency procurements, 10 (I) and other DGOF requirements. Committed liabilities of 2017 which will also get passed on to 2018 will further accentuate the situation. Therefore, liquidation of this committed liability will hardly leave any funds for new schemes in 2018-19,” said the Lt General in a scathing criticism of the Modi government, although he was speaking to a committee chaired by a BJP MP, Maj General BC Khanduri (retd).

68% of army’s equipment is obsolete
Lt General Chand went on to add that “Typically, any modern Armed Forces should have one- third of forces, one-third of its equipment in the vintage category, one-third in the current category and one-third in the state of the art category. As far as we are concerned, the state today is 68 per cent of our equipment is in the vintage category, with just about 24 per cent in the current, and eight per cent in the state of the art category”.

Make in India’ is foreclosed
The vice chief of the army staff also ripped apart the hollow slogan of Make in India, tom-tommed by Modi. He noted, “Make in India as mentioned in the morning is a great step taken by the Ministry of Defence towards development and self-reliance in keeping with the vision of our hon. Prime Minister. Large number of systemic changes outlined in defence procurement procedure of 2016 was aimed at this to achieve greater indigenisation. We in the Army have identified as many as 25 projects for Make in India. However, there is not adequate Budget to support this. As a result of which, many of these may end up foreclosed.”

Strategic Partnership stalled
“There is yet another great step which was taken again by the Ministry of Defence by way of strategic partnership of allowing a foreign company to partner with an Indian company to make larger platforms like aircraft, submarines, ships, and tanks. In the Army we are looking forward to manufacturing the future ready combat vehicle, FRCVs, and FICVs, Future Infantry Combat Vehicles through these schemes. However, with the kind of Budget that has been allocated, this may get delayed by a few years. I am not sure what is going to be their future,” said Lt General Chand in a scathing indictment of the Modi government’s brainchild called Strategic Partnership.

Infrastructure development in a limbo
“As regards infrastructure development is concerned, we have the married accommodation projects which is on. It was said that the Rohtang tunnel has to be completed. We have a large number of Chinese strategic roads and also infrastructural development along the northern borders. For these infrastructure development, the allocation is falling short by around Rs. 902 Crore from what we have demanded. So, there is an overall shortfall of around Rs. 12,296 Crore as far as capital is concerned,” was the honest view of Indian Army’s second seniormost officer to the parliamentary committee.

Can’t secure military stations
He further went on to add that there was no money being given by Modi government to even protect the army’s camps: “We have had a few instances of fidayeen attacks, people entering the cantonment areas and very recently in the married accommodation. The Ministry of Defence has again delegated powers to the VCOAS to spend as much as Rs. 14,097 Crore towards security-related issues. However, there is no separate allocation for this. So, this money also to be found from the same Budget leaving us with no choice but to re-prioritize either to reduce our requirement as far as the security of military stations are concerned or to go slow on some other acquisition. So, the total requirement in the capital Rs. 12,296 Crore and revenue Rs. 9,282 Crore works out to Rs. 21,578 Crore.”

[Courtesy: 42nd Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, presented to the parliament on March 13, 2018]

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