Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has countered reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence which had said that there was shortage of funds for the armed forces. Addressing a news conference in New Delhi on Tuesday, the defence minister said that there was no shortage of funds or ammunition.
Sitharaman said that the Army’s demands were not “unreasonable”. She, however, said that the services should rationalise on what they wanted, keeping in mind whether technology was outdated or newer versions were available, and ‘prioritise’ what was needed, referring to the Army’s requirements highlighted in standing committee reports.
“When we came in, there was ammunition shortage. There was no doubt about it. People who are accusing us today should say where the shortage came from. I read all the figures about money allocated. I am telling you there is no shortage. Powers have been given to headquarters backed by enough funds and also by the fact that some capital purchases can be done through the revenue route. So there is no shortage,” the minister said on being asked on the shortage of ammunition.
“I want to dispel the myth that funds which have been given are lesser than before. Beginning 2004 to today, particularly on expenditure, it has never been higher than this. In last four years, figures show how much more it is compared to earlier. The defence expenditure has been highest in 2017-18, if you look at it since 2004-05. In the same manner, it was second highest in 2016-17 and third highest in 2015-16. The fourth highest defence expenditure since 2004-05 was in 2014-15,” she said, on being asked about the fund crunch highlighted in parliamentary panel reports.
The Army had told the Standing Committee on Defence that the defence budget was inadequate and could not cater to most of its requirements. The committee had also pointed out that additional funds had to be allocated to the Army. When asked if the Army was justified in asking for more money, she said, “I will never say they are unreasonable. They want to be up to date and to be geared for any eventuality. But shortage is not the truth. I want to say that a list which existed before me, many of them, emanate from 2004.”
“The only exercise I have asked the service headquarters to do is to look at that and rationalise it. One is the technology outdated, in the sense are newer updated versions available. I have asked the service headquarters to review once more,” she said.
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