Vice Chief of Indian army slams Modi government on budget allocations

PTI file

PTI file

The Budget allocation for 2018-19 has "dashed the hopes" of the Army and the marginal increase is barely enough to meet inflation as 68% of the force's equipment falls in the "vintage category", Army Vice Chief Lt General Sarath Chand has told a parliamentary standing committee on defence.

On the quality of equipment, the VCOS said, "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 8 per cent in the state-of-art category".

He also pointed out that the Army was falling short of funds for its 25 "Make in India" projects.

"Keeping in view the increasing threat perception, which includes various occurrences of external strife and internal dissidence such as Doklam, increased external activities in Tibet over a year, rampant cross border firing, militant activities etc., the current budget is not supportive to the inevitable needs of the Army", the panel said.

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"Is the entire defence expenditure being utilized only for maintaining military?"

Lack of funds has stalled the construction of strategic roads along the China border.

In another report, the vice-chief of Indian Army has said: "The Budget of 2018-19 has dashed our hopes and most of what has been achieved has actually received a little setback".

In its 41st report presented to the Parliament Tuesday, the committee, headed by BJP MP Maj Gen (retd) B C Khanduri, observed that the "allocation of Rs 21,338 crore for modernisation is insufficient even to cater to committed payments to the extent of Rs 29,033 crore, earmarked for 125 ongoing schemes, emergency procurement of armaments and weaponry for 10 days of intense war {10 (I)} and other Director General Ordnance Factories requirements".

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Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Sarath Chand said inadequate allocation of funds will hit the Army's modernisation plan when Chinese military was competing to reach the level of the US.

The picture is indeed grim, with even defence secretary Sanjay Mitra admitting before the committee that the finance ministry "is not supporting the defence ministry as per its requirements". In addition, the defence budget's share of India's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the lowest it has been since the 1962 war between India and China, working out to only 1.58 percent of India's GDP. The officer said that the left money won't be sufficient for new projects. The Navy and IAF, in turn, got 56% and 46%. The story was similar under the revenue head for day-to-day operating costs, which in any case dwarfs the capital outlay in a skewed 67:37 ratio due to a ballooning salary bill.

Considering that India is the biggest importer of arms in the world, the government has been pushing for indigenous arms development, which would possibly be hit by the poor budget allocations.

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