Union Budget 2021: Modernisation in defence needed over tensions along LAC, LOC
- Rs 4,71,000 crore was allocated for the defence budget, last year
- Defence sector has made emergency purchases of over $2 billion since June 2020
- According to reports, the 2021-22 defence budget might touch Rs 6 lakh crore mark
With China knocking one door and Pakistan the other, the Indian defence budget is expected to face the strain amid an economy reviving from a pandemic and all sectors standing in the queue with demands. While modernisation has been on the cards for the past several months, some facts from the last budget could be checked to analyse the trends.
In 2020-2021, the hike was less than 2% over the Revised Estimates (RE) for 2019-2020. Allocation of Rs 3.37 lakh crores for 2020-21 constituted nearly 1.5 % of the projected GDP and therefore the capital allocations were not enough for fulfilling the committed liabilities. And, if the pensions for the defence personnel are added then the budget outlay for 2020-21 stood at Rs 4.71 lakh crore.
This year the military’s demands come when the country is facing recession. Even with some flushing in the economy for revival, several sectors like manufacturing and infrastructure will make strong cases at the budget. Defence has believed to have already executed emergency purchases of over $2 billion since June 2020 to plug enduring equipment and ammunition shortages, adversely upsetting budgetary calculations. This points out at vast sums will be still required.
Given the role of 'Atmanirbhar' and 'modernisation' hitting the notes, latest technology and heavy equipments are on required and hence reports suggest that the defence budget could be hiked to reach Rs 6 lakh crore figure.
Speaking to Financial Express Online, a senior officer, who wished to not be named, said, “There are several modernisation projects that require immediate implementation because of the conditions on the LAC and LOC. These include helicopters, fighter aircraft, drones, artillery guns amongst others.”
The Financial Express report adds that the Indian Navy has cut out its number of the Mine Counter Measures Vessels and the helicopters; the IAF has been facing an acute budget crunch and has been forced to go slow on several acquisition plans. For the Indian Air Force, the 114 fighter aircraft, transport aircraft which are meant to replace the ageing Avros have all been delayed due to lack of funds
According to Air Marshal Nirdosh Tyagi, “Despite the global pandemic of COVID-19, the strain on the Indian economy is less than earlier estimates. Therefore, cut in the Defence Budget is unlikely and the allocations could be based on the immediate priorities of the armed forces. Since the future looks brighter, the budget should adequately cater for capital expenditure on modernization schemes. Also, prioritisation needs to be done on the basis of current and near term operational needs”
Reports suggest that the budget for defence will be set according to an estimate of five years. It is estimated that this time there will be an unprecedented increase in the defence budget, giving a strong message to China. A provision of Rs 4,71,000 crore was made in the defence budget for the year 2020-21, but in this Rs 1,33,000 was only for pension. So there was only Rs 3,23,000 crore left for defence expenditure. There was also a provision of about Rs 1,00,000 crore for defence modernization.
While, a flashback to 2018 makes one listen to the words of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman when she said there are enough funds to fulfill the requirements of the army, one also realised the irony when a yawning gap between requirements and allocation came up. However, more than ever, all three services crave for upgradation and budget can be the first step.