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Opposition pushes govt to the wall over reduction of allocation for defence ministry

New Delhi: The opposition on Friday accused the government of reducing the allocation for the defence ministry
to the lowest level since the 1962 war with China and claimed that the acchhe din (good days) have not come for soldiers.

Leading the opposition charge in the Lok Sabha during a debate on the Demand for Grants of the Defence Ministry, Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said security challenges from China and Pakistan had increased and the lack of modernisation of the defence forces is a "ticking time bomb".

 Opposition pushes govt to the wall over reduction of allocation for defence ministry

Representational image. Reuters

He said the defence allocation had been increased to 2.5 percent of GDP during the UPA government but it has now been reduced to 1.5 percent, which is the "lowest" since 1962.

The allocation for capital expenditure was only Rs 86,000 crore and 90 percent of it will go to service the existing contractual liability, Scindia said.

"Our army is not getting new weapons. The budget for them is not adequate and still all of it is not being spent. Rs 7,000 crore of the capital expenditure has been returned and Rs 13,000 crore was returned in the preceding year...," he said.

While Pakistan had been "caged" by the UPA government, it is now launching counter attacks on us, he said.

He added that China had sided with Pakistan during the Brics Summit held in India last year.

This government has neither a proper defence policy nor has it right intentions, the Congress leader said.

Describing the 'Make-in-India' programme as "big cheating", he said not much has happened under it.

He hit out at the government over terror strikes in Pathankot, Uri and Nagrota while recalling Prime Minister Narendra Modi's attack on the previous UPA government during the Lok Sabha polls, when he was the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.

Scindia said the UPA government had signed a deal to procure 126 Rafale aircraft which would have increased the air force's squadron of fighter aircraft to 40 from 33. However, the NDA government has reduced the procurement size to only two squardons, he said.

Claiming inadequacy of weapons and equipment for all three wings of defence forces, he said against the need of 3.5 lakh bullet proof jackets, only 50,000 has been procured.

"If you do not modernise, it is a ticking time bomb," he said.

Taking a dig at former defence minister Manohar Parrikar, he said he was often away from Delhi.

He also found fault with the execution of OROP policy.

Countering the opposition charge, BJP member Meenakshi Lekhi took a dig at the Congress, saying in the earlier governments there was "scam and ban" and then "a lot of noise" as far as defence contracts were concerned.

The present government has stopped such things and it would be better not to remind the Congress about AgustaWestland issues, she added, in an apparent reference to the scam in the purchase of VVIP helicopters.

She favoured audit of the land owned by the defence forces to ensure there is no exploitation and defence economic zones.

Gaurav Gogoi (Congress) said dignity should be ensured for the defence forces and there should also be parity in pay.

About the preparedness of the forces, he said there is shortage of aircraft and the vacancies in the defence forces are staggering.

He said the government should look at opening more Sainik schools and wondered why ordnance factories are vulnerable.

Taking a swipe at the government over a recent incident where a jawan complained about quality of the food served, Gogoi said, "We need to be sensitive... let us not question his mental state... What the army needs is dignity and respect."

AIADMK member K Gopal also said there was only a meager hike in defence budget and that there was a shortage of equipment in the armed forces.

He wanted focus on security in the southern coast and said the killing of fishermen from Tamil Nadu by the Sri Lankan forces should be considered as an "unfriendly aggression".

Trinamool Congress member Pratima Mondal said the cross-LoC surgical strike last September had sent out a credible and strong message but there is a threat to internal security.

NK Premchandran (RSP) said the government was trying to take political advantage from the surgical strikes even though such actions had been conducted three times during the UPA rule but never made it public.

He also said that the share of defence budget in proportion to GDP has come down from 1.65 percent in 2016-17 to 1.56 percent in the current fiscal.

Expelled RJD member Rajesh Ranjan said bribery was still taking place in defence contracts because India has failed to become self-reliant in the sector.

Jaiprakash Narayan Yadav (RJD), Neelam Sonkar (BJP) and Kaushalendra Kumar (JD-U) also spoke.

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Updated Date: Mar 17, 2017 17:03:46 IST