In a scathing assessment of the defence budget, a top Army officer has told parliament’s standing committee that 68 per cent of the Army’s equipment is vintage era and the army’s budget isn’t enough to pay for even existing projects, let alone fund any immediate modernisation. Army’s Vice Chief Lt Gen Sarath Chand has told the panel of lawmakers that the Army had identified 25 projects for Make in India as part of its modernisation plan but many of these may have to be scrapped because “there is not adequate Budget to support this”.
“As far as we are concerned, the state today is 68 percent of our equipment is in the vintage category, with just about 24 per cent in the current, and eight per cent in the state of the art category,” he said. Army officers say the proportion of equipment that can be classified as vintage should not exceed one-third. “The Budget of 2018-19 has dashed our hopes and most of what had been achieved has actually received a little set back,” the top Army officer told the panel.
In this year’s budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley earmarked Rs. 21,338 crore for the army’s modernisation. The Army had asked for 37,000 crore. The Army officer said this allocation was insufficient to cater for committed payment of Rs. 29,000 crore on 125 on-going schemes and would hardly leave any funds for new schemes. One of the casualties could be the Future Ready Combat Vehicles that the army had been hoping would form the base of its main battle tanks and replace the existing tanks such as the T-72 tanks that have been service since the 1980s. But the funds shortage could delay such plans by a few years. “I am not sure what is going to be their future,” Vice Chief Lieutenant General Sarath Chand told the committee.