Parliamentary panel asks defence ministry to seek PMO help to solve fund crunch

A parliamentary panel has asked the defence ministry to seek intervention of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to resolve its budget crisis at a time the Indian military is struggling to scale up its capabilities due to a worrying fund crunch.

In a report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the parliamentary standing committee on defence said, “The ministry may once again take up the matter with the PMO for intervention so as to ensure that adequate allocations are available for the modernisation of army.”

The panel’s observation came in response to the ministry’s reply — in an action taken report — that it had taken up the issue of fund shortage with the PMO but it was unsure if the top office had made any reference to the finance ministry.

A defence ministry official said the army would have to prioritise its requirements and supplementary funds could be sought at a later stage, refusing to comment on whether the ministry would approach the PMO again. A government spokesperson also refused to comment.

“Hollowness in our capabilities is an issue that has been flagged consistently during the last six to seven years. It is only right that adequate attention is given to it,” said Lieutenant General KJ Singh (retired), a former army commander.

In another report which was tabled the same day, the army told the panel that even as neighbouring China and Pakistan are modernising their militaries at a lightning pace, a looming financial crisis is crippling India’s combat capabilities at a time when it should be prepared for a two-front war.

The army painted a grim picture of how budgetary outlay was coming in the way of emergency purchases following the Pathankot and Uri terror attacks last year, procuring critical ammunition, and undertaking strategic road projects on the Chinese border.

Army vice chief Lieutenant General Sarath Chand told the panel the Budget 2018-19 had dashed the army’s hopes and overall shortage under the capital head stood at Rs12,296 crore.

Hindustan Times