The defence budget of Rs 2.81 lakh crore for the next financial year is woefully inadequate for modernisation of the armed forces and may affect military preparedness, a parliamentary panel said on Thursday, strongly pitching for boosting the allocation.
Coming down hard on the government for meagre increase in allocation for armed forces in the last few years, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence said the outlay cannot even fulfill the basic requirements of the armed forces.
The Committee said it was in agreement with the Defence Ministry that the marginal growth of budgetary allocation is not at all sufficient and the Finance Ministry must consider increasing the funds for modernisation of the services.
"The Committee are distressed to note that no positive response has been received from the Ministry of Finance regarding augmentation of budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Defence," the panel said in its report, which was tabled in Lok Sabha.
Although Defence Ministry has been assuring the panel that funds crunch will not suffer critical requirements of services, the Committee asserted that there is no way in which inadequate allocations do not adversely defence preparedness.
"The Committee are concerned to note that the Army is operating with large scale 'vintage' equipment," it said expressing concern over lack of adequate critical weapons and surveillance systems.
"Reduction in share of Naval Budget is not desirable, especially in view of the fact that India's larger chunk of trade takes place through sea routes. Besides this, the new challenges of Navy are enormous, as the hostilities in sea by neighbouring countries have increased over the years," the panel said.
About Indian Air Force, it talked about pending contracts relating to Rafale fighter aircraft, Medium Lift Helicopter Upgrade,Transport Aircraft along with Associated Equipment as Avro Replacement, Additional Mi-17 V5, Manoeuvrable Expendable Aerial Targets (MEAT) and Weapons for Advance Light Helicopters etc.
The report said during the last two financial years, 108 contracts with a total value of Rs 1,12,736 crore have been signed for capital procurement of defence equipment including ships, missiles, frigates, rockets, aircraft, helicopters and radars.
In addition, in the last two financial years, the Defence Acquisition Council has accorded in principle approval for 114 proposals with a total value of Rs 2,25,022 crore.
On allocation of funds for armed forces, the report said the allocation has gone down from 2.36 per cent of the GDP in year 2000-2001 to 1.56 per cent in 2017-18.
The Ministry said the matter was even taken up with the PMO.
Referring to long-pending proposal to create a post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), the committee said it should be finalised at the earliest as he may also be helpful in avoiding duplication in purchase of equipment common to all the three services.
"War cannot be fought by any individual service on its own strength and has to be a multi-service endeavour, in synchronization with each other. To achieve this goal, permanent CDS, who has the bird's eye view and objectivity may integrate the Services for a common cause better," said the panel.