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BJP attacks govt over defense preparedness, equipment shortage

May 07
02:47 2012

NEW DELHI: Attacking Government over defense preparedness and shortage of equipment, BJP today specifically targeted Defense Minister A K Antony in Rajya Sabha saying his “no work, no mistake and clean image” was a dangerous policy.

Initiating a discussion on the working of Defense Ministry, Balbir Punj demanded that the defense budget be increased to three per cent of the GDP from less than even 2 per cent (1.9 and 1.8 per cent) now.

The BJP member also demanded that the government should implement the one rank one pension scheme for the forces.

He rued that India with its vast challenges spends less than 2 per cent, while a country like USA spends 4 per cent of its GDP on defense, Russia 3.5 per cent, Pakistan 3 per cent, France and UK 2.3 per cent and China 2.1 per cent.

Rejecting the government’s figures about rise in the budget for defense procurement, Punj said that when seen in the context of dollar value, the statistics of 17 per cent increase in the defense budget is merely “window dressing” and an exercise in “public relation”.

He said that even statistically the increase in this year’s defense budget is only 13 per cent if the revised budget of this year and last year is compared.

The BJP leader said it seems that Antony, who is close to top in UPA, did not give his push for increase in the defense budget and questioned “whether the budget will allocate money only to those departments, which fetch votes”.

In an oblique reference to UPA ally Mamata Banerjee, Punj wondered whether the Finance Minister will give money only to the Chief Ministers of allies who arm-twist and threaten.

He said while the country’s defense budget is very less, even that allocated money is not spent fully. “The Army and the Air Force surrendered Rs 5,727 crore. This is a matter of great concern and shame,” Punj said.

He said the minister should not hesitate from taking a decision due to “fear” that somebody will raise a finger on him and urged him to lead from the front. . Raking up the issue of the Army Chief General V K Singh’s allegations regarding purchase of Tatra trucks, Punj questioned as to why the Defense Minister kept mum when the Army Chief first apprised him of the issue.

“That is a big question. Why did you not take all those actions, which you are taking now after the matter came into public domain? Why did you keep mum? That is a big question,” he said but at the same time maintained Antony is “honest”.

Punj also pointed out that Massimo, Bofors accused Quattrochi’s son, had set up office in Bangalore in 2004, “merely 200 meters away from the unit where these Tatra trucks were to be assembled.”

Pointing out the huge gap in the prices of defense equipment prepared in the country by the DRDO, which were found to cost much more than those being imported, he said announcements for private-public partnership for manufacturing in defense sector only remains limited to announcements.

“There is a strong import lobby here, which does not want manufacturing to be carried out here. Their patrons are not just sitting in defense ministry but at many other higher positions,” Punj said telling the Defense Minister that he should take action against those who took commissions in arms deals.

He said the minister will have to fight the import lobby, which is not an easy job, if he has to strengthen the country’s defense preparedness and make the forces self-reliant.

Noting that pilots of IAF are not receiving their first stage training on HPT aircraft while even for the second stage of their training, IAF has only 81 Kiran aircraft as against the requirement of 234.

“You have phased out old planes and do not have plan to purchase new ones,” he said, adding that there is shortage of 25 per cent officers in forces with 10,546 posts were vacant out of a total strength of 47,762. -PTI

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