Nirmala Faces Daunting Task Of Reversing Trend Of Under Spending Of Defence Budget

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Mukesh Kaushik

New Delhi: Before taking as Defence Minister in the iconic South Block, Nirmala Sitharaman was handling the Commerce Ministry and the experience gained during that period would come handy for her, so far tackling of under spending of the capital budget is concerned.

The capital budget is primarily spent for the modernization of Defence Forces, a process which has been tardy in nature making it almost impossible to fully spend the budget allocated for the specific purposes.
There has been a continuous trend of under spending during the 11th and 12th Plan Periods. Especially, during the 12th Plan Period, the under spending was more evident.

During the first four years of the 12th Plan Period, the allocation made to Army for capital acquisition was Rs. 55,771.10 crore whereas the expenditure incurred was Rs. 49,600.28 crore. Hence, Rs. 6,170.82 crore remained unutilized over a span of four years.
The Twelfth Plan Period envisaged many critical acquisitions for Army including Bullet Proof Jackets, ammunition items and latest weapons. However, the under-utilization of the allocated amount is indicative of adopting an apathetic attitude towards equipping soldiers with latest-state-of-the-art equipments.
This, in turn can lead to increased instances of harm, including casualties amongst soldiers. The Committee regret the grim situation and earnestly desire that necessary steps be taken towards critical acquisitions/procurements for Indian Army.

While enquiring on the aspect of under spending and the slow pace of expending the budgeted amounts, it is surprising many proposals pending in the Ministry of Finance for approval.
Therefore, the Army has not been able to spend the money on the projects planned. On one hand, the Ministry of Finance cites the aspect of slow pace of spending as the reason for making lesser allocations, on the other, there are some crucial proposals lying with the Ministry and are pending approval.
Ms sitharaman has to cross the road to reach out to the North Block to convince her counterpart in Finance Ministry to reverse the trend.
Making him understand the problem should not be a tough task as Mr Jaitley had handled the additional responsibility of Defence Ministry twice.

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