The Union Budget 2018, which is going to be presented on 1st Feb, is one of the most awaited announcements by the common man, investors, and industrialists alike. This is going to be the last full budget before the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections and the hopes are high.
Although issues like agriculture, job vacancy, and tax exemptions remain the most crucial elements of the union budget; another highly significant area to focus upon is the armed forces. Notably, India has the second largest armed forces in the world and has the 6th highest defense budget.
It’s a well-known fact that in the past few years, the need for modernization has been talked about a lot and the Ministry has even given a push to such needs in the form of better equipment as well as bulletproof uniforms. Despite this, the growth rate of the defense budget and the Central government expenditure has come down.
Decline in the Budget
While the overall budget has seen a jump from INR 2, 49,099 Crores to INR 2, 62,389 Crores within 1 year, the modernization budget has shrunk down from INR 70,414 Crores to INR 69,783 Crores. Although the Air Force gained a jump of 12.1%, the Navy and Army saw a decline by 12.1% and 6.4% respectively.
Modernization needs of the Armed Forces
• The Indian Air Force has been quite dependant on MiG 21s and MiG27s but these aircrafts are becoming obsolete at an alarming rate. In fact, the condition is such that these have been named as “Flying Coffin” and “Widow-maker”. There have been 10 accidents in the last 5 years.
• As per Air Chief BS Dhanoa, having a 42-Squadron Air Force by 2032 is quite difficult considering the current pace of the procurement by the government. For this plan to fulfill, the government must ink single-engine fighter deals on an immediate basis.
• As China is expanding its ‘Strings of Pearls’, India must prepare a well-equipped navy to not only guard the coastline but also to secure the Indian Ocean Region.
• India planned to acquire a fleet of 22 submarines by 2020-21 and with just 3 years left, we still need 8 more submarines. For this, it’s important that the budget for ‘New Schemes’ is raised this year.
• The Indian Army desperately needs to replace the aging fleet of Chetak helicopters and the hopes are glued to the budget so as to realize the objective by 2019.
• Indian Army needs to address the shortfall of Bullet Proof Jackets as the present ones are not effective against some of the weapons used by insurgents. The aim is to fulfill the requirements by 2019 as the testing and procurement have begun and the jackets will be coming in batches of 20000-25000 every quarter.
It’s quite evident that the union budget has too many allocations and too many concerns to address ranging from the needs of the common man to the business enterprises and from agriculture to job creations. Then there are departments of education, defense, health, and so on. Undoubtedly the obsolete equipment, aircrafts, and submarines call for an urgent replacement but it will only be revealed with the budget as to how many of these issues are addressed.