The armed forces are hoping for a miracle this Union Budget from Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman — a substantial rise in the defence allocation, which will enable them to bring on track the mega procurement plans that have either slowed or stalled.
Citing the ongoing border standoff with China, sources in the forces said there is a stark need for defence modernisation.
A number of mega deals are pending or have slowed due to budgetary constraints, including those for new transport and fighter aircraft, and helicopters for the Indian Air Force (IAF); artillery guns, assault rifles, snipers and specialised vehicles for the Army; and fighter aircraft, submarines, new warships and helicopters for the Navy.
Experts, however, say a large budgetary rise is not on the cards. Given that the pandemic has hit India’s economy and the government’s priority will be investment in infrastructure and health, a raise of Rs 10,000-15,000 crore in capital budget would be welcome, they say.
Government sources too indicated to ThePrint that the Ministry of Defence’s push for a rollover budget or a non-lapsable fund for itself is unlikely to be met on 1 February when FM Sitharaman will present the Union Budget 2021-22.
Last budget and modernisation bid
In 2020-21, the Narendra Modi government increased India’s defence budget by a mere 1.82 per cent to Rs 3.37 lakh crore, excluding expenditure on pension. ThePrint had then reported that the allocation isn’t enough for a military that has been forced to cut back on its procurement and modernisation plans due to lack of funds.