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Retired soldiers get their due, finally

business Updated: Jul 07, 2009 02:31 IST
Rahul Singh

The distinguishing mark of the defence budget this year is its human face.

The unknown Indian soldier finally got his due. An additional Rs 2,100 crore every year has been earmarked to substantially improve, as Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s speech put it, the pensions of more than 12 lakh retired personnel below officer rank.

With successive pay commission reports providing for higher pensions each time, military personnel who retired before 1996 were drawing substantially lower pensions than those who retired after 2006. A longstanding demand of retired military personnel — that this anomaly be redressed — has been partially fulfilled as well.

The total allocation of Rs 1,41,703 crore is a 34 per cent increase over the previous financial year’s Rs 1,05,600 crore. There has been no deviation from the interim budget announced in February.

Budget figures showed the defence ministry surrendered unused funds of Rs 7,007 crore out of a total capital outlay of Rs 48,007 crore last year.

Surrendering became inevitable after several big-ticket deals failed to work out in the last financial year. These included 400 towed artillery guns, 197 light helicopters, Mirage 2000 upgrade aircraft as well as the excessive delay in the aircraft carrier Gorshkov project.

The defence budget once more underlined the yawning gap between revenue and capital expenditure. The ministry and the armed forces have been striving to keep revenue expenditure under check and make sure that the split is in a 50:50 ratio. The share of revenue expenditure worked out to around 55 per cent last year.