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Required funds must be made available to armed forces: Par panel

NEW DELHI (PTI):  Adequate budgetary allocations must be made available to the armed forces in view of the present scenario of heightened tensions with certain neighbouring countries, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence said on Wednesday.

Referring to the gap between the demand of the three services for capital outlay and the budgetary allocation, the panel recommended that the defence ministry should not make any reduction in the outlay in the coming years.

In a report tabled in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, the committee noted that a demand of Rs 2,15,995 crore was projected under the capital head for 2022-23, but the allocation made was Rs 1,52,369.61 crore.

It said such curtailment of funds could end up compromising the operational preparedness of the defence services.

"The committee further note that at BE (budget estimate) stage in 2022-23, the gap between the projected and allocated budget for Army, Navy and Air Force is Rs 14,729.11 crore, Rs 20,031.97 crore and Rs 28,471.05 crore respectively, which are remarkably high," it said.

The committee said it was of the view that in the "present scenario of heightened tensions with our neighbouring countries, especially at borders of our country, such situation is not conducive for defence preparedness".

The panel, in its previous reports, had recommended making capital budget "non-lapsable" and "roll-on" in nature.

The committee said it was apprised that a draft cabinet note for the non-lapsable defence modernisation fund is under consideration.

"The committee observe that out of the total budgetary allocation of Rs 3,43,822.00 in 2020-21, only Rs 2,33,176.70 have been utilised by the ministry up to December 2020," it said.

The committee is headed by BJP MP Jual Oram and comprises around 30 lawmakers, including Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and Nationalist Congress party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar.

The panel recommended to the defence ministry to expedite the constitution of the "non-lapsable defence modernisation fund -- defence renewal fund" that could be used exclusively for the procurement of critical defence assets at critical times.

About the Indian Air Force (IAF), the committee said it should have "two front deterrence capabilities", which is of utmost priority as the "threat on both sides of Indian neighbourhood is a reality which cannot be ignored".

The committee was making a veiled reference to the security threats India is facing along its borders with Pakistan and China. It, however, did not name the two countries.

"Accordingly, equipping our armed forces with all possible combat capabilities is the need of the hour. The firepower of Air Force is proportionate to the fighter squadrons in its kitty," the panel said.

"During evidence, the representatives of Air Force submitted that the present authorised strength of squadron is 42. It was further stated that the total technical life of most of the existing squadron is expiring and consequently, the squadron strength is progressively depleting," it added.

The committee also suggested that the IAF should ensure that new aircraft are procured in the near future so as to enhance its combat capabilities.

"The committee are of the view that fighter squadron strength cannot be counted merely on the number of aircraft but also their weapon carrying ability, lethality and range to fly and strike," it said.

"Therefore, no compromises in terms of firepower and technology should be made while inducting fighter jets in Air Force," it added.

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