India’s defence forces, which have been forced to re-work their long-term strategy and procurement priorities because of the lack of funds, are hoping that former Defence Minister and current Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will keep them in mind when she allocates funds in the Budget Saturday.
Her performance as the finance minister last year was a disaster for the armed forces because she kept India’s defence budget unchanged from the interim budget at Rs 3.18 lakh crore despite Balakot and the subsequent air battle with Pakistan, which brought to light the big capability gap in India’s defence.
One can only hope the Narendra Modi government prioritises India’s defence forces in its Budget 2020.
The overall defence budget, including pensions, stands at Rs 4.3 lakh crore. However, of the three major constituents, the defence services amounts to 71 per cent, with defence pensions (26 per cent) and the Ministry of Defence (three per cent) comprising the rest.
Incidentally, as an Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses article points, out of Ministry of Defence’s total budget, close to 60 per cent is spent on salary and pensions of nearly 49 lakh personnel, of which 31 lakh are defence pensioners, 14 lakh uniformed and 4 lakh defence civilians. The periodic revision of salary and pension and One Rank One Pension (OROP) implementation has led to this segment seeing the highest growth.
What is significant is that only Rs 1.08 lakh crore is allocated for capital expenditure for the defence services and the organisations/departments under the Ministry of Defence.