Forces need Rs 80,000 crore more for modernisation this year
- The armed forces want around Rs 80,000 crore more for modernisation, plugging critical operational gaps and paying 'committed liabilities
- Sources said the 13-lakh strong Army has projected an additional requirement of Rs 20,500 crore for capital expenditure
Sources said the 13-lakh strong Army has projected an additional requirement of Rs 20,500 crore for capital expenditure, while the IAF has asked for around Rs 40,000 crore more. The Navy needs about Rs 20,000 crore at the revised estimate stage in December.
The cash-strapped forces contend they do not even have enough for 'committed liabilities' in the shape of instalments for arms deals inked in earlier years, leave alone money for new modernisation projects. The forces are grappling with critical shortages on several fronts, ranging from fighter jets, submarines and helicopters to modern infantry weapons, 155mm howitzers and ammunition.
The overall defence outlay in the 2019-2020 budget was pegged at Rs 3.18 lakh crore, with Rs 2.10 lakh crore revenue expenditure for salaries and day-to-day running costs outstripping the Rs 1.08 lakh crore for capital expenditure by far.
The Navy, for instance, wanted around Rs 29,000 crore just for 'committed liabilities' this year but was allocated Rs 23,154 crore as capital expenditure. The Army had projected a requirement of Rs 44,500 crore for capital expenditure but got only Rs 29,472 crore. Even under the revenue outlay and the ex-servicemen contributory health scheme head, the Army needs another Rs 15,500 crore this year.
Army chief General Bipin Rawat on Tuesday briefed Finance Commission members led by N K Singh during their field visit to Ladakh to understand the conditions under which troops operate and assess financial outlays to meet modernisation and infrastructure requirements of the force. The Finance Commission has been tasked to examine whether a separate mechanism for funding of defence and internal security should be established.
In New Delhi, Navy vice chief Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar said the maritime force "will certainly seek more money" because it is a "challenge" to execute modernisation plans. "What we need is more capital allocation. The Navy's share was 18% of the defence budget in 2012-13. But it has come down to 13.6%. We would like it to go back to 18-20%," he said.
With a capital allocation of Rs 39,303 crore this year, the technology and capital-intensive IAF is also grappling with huge shortfalls in paying instalments. The force, for instance, has already paid around over Rs 34,000 crore to France in 'milestone-linked instalments' under the Rs 59,000 crore deal inked for 36 Rafale fighters in September 2016, while another major instalment of Rs 13,000 crore is in the pipeline now.
The 15-lakh armed forces will not get all they want. "The government has to spend on health, education, infrastructure and other sectors as well. Capital allocation for the defence ministry is already almost 32% of the total central government capital expenditure of Rs 3.38 lakh crore. The budget also provides a separate Rs 1.12 lakh crore for defence pension of military and civilian personnel," said an official.