There is a saying that people can sleep peacefully at their homes in the night because the real heroes are struggling at the borders to protect our nation. While soldiers sacrifice their lives and loved ones for the safety of the citizens, what do they get in return? Are the sacrifices made by the soldiers going in vain with Indian Army drastically cutting down its supplies from the state-owned ordnance factories and spending their own money to buy uniforms due to insufficient Central funds?
Ordnance factories’ products supplied to the Army will be brought down from 94 per cent to 50 per cent as the Centre has not provided additional funds for emergency procurements of ammunition and spares. But supplies such as clothing (combat dress, berets, belts, shoes) to soldiers will be hit due to this move as soldiers will have to spend their own money to buy uniforms and other clothes from civilian markets. It is to ensure that the money is rather used to procure an adequate stock of critical ammunition and spares for a short intense war.
Maj Gen (R) AJB Jaini expressed this move as a mockery of the defence system and jawans. This defence budget is not enough catering to the threat on the national security and considering many jaw-ans dying every day in Jammu and Kashmir.
He further stated, “The government is taking Indian Army for granted. Anyway, the government has made least possible defence allocation since 1950 in the budget as 1.46 per cent in the budget of Rs 2,94,000 crores is the lowest per cent of GDP this year as well. The jumlas of giving free hand to faujis made by the government are all proving to be false. If we see the increment over the last year in the budget, it is just 7 per cent, while the minimum increment is 9-10 per cent. 86 per cent of the budget goes into the maintenance of the army.”
However, the Defence Ministry has seen four ministers, whereas, the other ministries which form part of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) — foreign, finance and home — have seen no change in their ministers since May 2014. With a steep learning curve for every new minister has delayed and hampered the pace of reform of the national security sphere. Recently, there were protests against the Defence Ministry’s decision to open cantonment roads for the public use.
According to the reports in 2017, the NDA government has spent Rs 3,214.7 crore on print and electronic advertisement in the last three years, incurring Rs 3.21 crore in daily expenses. The erstwhile UPA regime spent a total of Rs 2658.24 crore in 10 years on publicity, the daily average being Rs 1.45 crore. If the government can spend crores of rupees in boasting its power, why do they need to curb the expenses of the national heroes who are already leaving on their last legs? Is it a disgrace on the part of the government to make the Indian Army the scapegoat of their politics?
Former state DGP Pravin Dixit said, “Earlier, the government used to provide uniforms and other facilities to army personnel as they were drawing low salaries. But over the years, salary and other perks offered to them have also been increased. If we consider the size of the army it is approximately 15 lakhs individuals so it will be difficult to bear all the expense by the administration. But ultimately weapons and heavy expenditure materials are taken care by the authority. If we consider this decision, I can say the government is on the right track. We can’t compare to government advertisement expenditure with this aspect.”
The dismay over the not so impressive line of the defence ministers in these past four years is further deepened by the shortage of officers and men. Requests for early retirement have also spiked, with over 39,000 soldiers since 2014 asking for premature departure. This is a colossal wastage in training costs. The defence budget as a percentage of GDP fell to 1.47, lower than the levels seen in 1962.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had stated that in the last eight months, the DAC has approved procurement of equipment valued at Rs 43,844 crore including Rs 32,253 crore procurement of Made-in-India equipment to strengthen the operational preparedness of the Armed Forces. The country had notched up remarkable achievements with the introduction of one rank one pension for defence personnel, modernisation of defence forces and also carried out a surgical strike against Pakistan in 2016. Each one of them was hailed as a success and marketed politically by the government, even though the real outcomes from these were not known to the public.
Retired DYSP M. I Sheikh commented, “Whether it is Army or police, the uniform is provided by the government. If now soldiers have to buy their own uniform, then it is not a good sign. Although, there is a need for a hike in salary of the soldiers and there should be an improvement in their standard of living.”
While there has been criticism for lack of adequate budgetary support, the defence forces have still delivered whenever they have been asked to do so. Although, the move by the gove-rnment to buy their uniforms from the civilian markets raises one’s eyebrows as this being the matter of concern. However, uniform not only in the Indian Army but other forces is considered to be an honour to receive it rather than buying. Hence, instead of the government cutting down the expenses on the defence budget, it should condemn the wastage of funds on unnecessary sectors.