Budget allocation 35 percent lower than required: House panel on defence
A parliamentary panel on Friday flagged concerns about the India’s military modernisation taking a hit because of inadequate funds made available for buying new weapons and systems in this year’s budget. The panel pointed out that the capital budget for 2020-21 was 35% less than the requirement projected by the armed forces.
In a report tabled in the Lok Sabha, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence pointed out that insufficient budgetary allocation would affect acquisition of latest weaponry, aircraft, ships and tanks that are required to match the modernisation of the Chinese and Pakistani militaries.
“The committee feel and desire that to develop and acquire the most modern state-of-the-art fighting platforms, which can match northern and western neighbours [China and Pakistan], the requisite allocation to the capital head is very essential,” the panel said in its report on capital outlay, procurement policy and defence planning.
Last month, the government set aside Rs 3.37 lakh crore for military spending in its budget for 2020-21, an increase of barely 6% over last year’s budget estimates of Rs 3.18 lakh crore.
This year’s budget, which exclude defence pensions, includes Rs 1.13 lakh crore under the capital head for modernisation, which is only Rs 10,340 crore more than the allocation in last year’s budget estimates. If the defence spending allocated for 2020-21 is calculated against last year’s revised estimates of Rs 3.31 lakh crore, the increase is not even 2%.
The armed forces are prioritising their purchases to make the best use of available resources, two senior officials said on the condition of anonymity.
The panel highlighted how the gap between the requirement of the armed forces and the money made available has increased over the years.
It said the gap for the army had spiralled from Rs 4,596 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 17,911.22 crore this year (from 14% to 36%).
“In the case of navy, the difference was Rs 1,264.89 crore in 2014-15, which has increased to Rs 18,580 crore in 2020-21 [5% to 41%] and for airforce, the gap which was Rs 12,505.21 crore in 2015-16 has increased to Rs 22,925.38 crore in 2020-21 [27% to 35%],” the report said.
Experts said it was critical to allocate more money to the military under the capital head this year.
“With the security challenges that India faces, the capability accretion of three services should not be stymied due lack of funds. Unfortunately, the allocation in this year’s budget is woefully inadequate and must be given a second look,” said Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), additional director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.
Last month, chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat indicated that he prefers a procurement model that involves buying weapons and systems in a staggered manner so that the requirement of the three services can be met within the available budget. The prioritisation of military purchases to be made by the three services comes under Rawat’s purview.