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Centre asked to restore cut in defence allocation

Tuesday 26 April 2005, by DIKSHIT*Sandeep

Shortfalls in submarines, mine counter vessels

NEW DELHI: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has asked the Government to review immediately the Rs. 10,000 crore reduction in the defence services’ requirements for the current year. Instead of the projected capital (equipment) requirement of Rs. 44,000 crores, the Finance Ministry granted Rs. 34,375 crores, which failed to "address the security concerns of the nation’’. At the same time, it asked the Ministry of Defence to re-prioritise its plans to ensure optimum use of existing assets.

Charging the Finance Ministry with imposing "arbitrary caps’’ on budget utilisation for the past several years, the panel’s report tabled in Parliament on Monday said this attitude had taken a toll on almost all sectors of defence such as indigenisation, modernisation, procurement of equipment, R&D and manpower in the Navy.

The committee felt there should not be any cut or reduction in the defence budget by the Ministry of Finance at any stage.

After analysing the present security scenario and the defence expenditure of some of India’s neighbours, the committee said there was a need to fix a minimum percentage of the gross domestic product to defence forces "at all costs every year’’.

Upgrade weapon system

From the presentation made by the Army, the committee felt that the number and the type of equipment available with the Army is "much less’’ compared to its requirements. It strongly recommended a concerted move to modernise the Army and upgrade its weapon systems through a time-bound programme. It specifically mentioned the "critical shortage’’ of artillery guns and need to replace the existing fleet of aging Cheetah helicopters. On the other hand, the panel noted the increase in court cases arising out of personal matters and gave the defence services three months to overhaul the system of delivery of justice under military law.

In the Navy, there were shortfalls in certain critical areas such as long-range surveillance aircraft, submarines and mine counter vessels.

No order for submarines had been placed for a decade on Mazagaon dock and the technical expertise gained by the country in this area would be lost. The committee wanted the Government to decide on the indigenous production of submarines and other ships without "loss of time’’. The 10 per cent cut imposed by the Ministry of Finance would make it difficult for the Navy to recruit civilian manpower for its new naval base at Karwar. Taking note of the fact that half the manpower in the Navy is from the civil side, it asked the Ministry of Finance not to impose any restriction on their recruitment.

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