Battling the squeeze (Indian Express)
Mains Paper 3: Defense and Security
Prelims level: Standing committee on defence
Mains level: Highlights the budget allocation in defense sector
• This works out to 2.04 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and
accounts for 15.47 per cent of the total expenditure of the central government
envisaged in the budget.
• On both these counts, the allocation for defence shows a downward trend
vis-à-vis the last year’s outlay.
• The question, however, is whether additional funds could have been provided
by the finance minister at this stage.
• Considering that the die had already been cast by the interim budget and
the finance minister had barely five weeks to prepare the regular budget after
the present government was sworn in, it was never going to be easy to make any
substantial change in the budget already allocated to various ministries and
Highlights the budget allocation
• This is evident from the fact that in the budget presented last week, the
total estimated receipt of the government has gone up by a measly sum of Rs
2,149 crore vis-à-vis the interim budget. This was the only additional income of
the government that was up for grabs.
• Last year (2018-19), the allocation for the armed forces was approximately
Rs 1.12 lakh crore less than what they had demanded.
• Assuming that this year the gap would be half of that, it would still be
more than Rs 55,000 crore. So, even if the entire additional income of Rs 2,149
crore were to be passed on to defence, it would have been just a drop in the
• The finance minister could, of course, resort to higher taxation,
disinvestment and borrowing, or reduce the allocation for other schemes in order
to generate more income or savings and then set aside a substantial portion of
that for defence.
• But no one can seriously argue that it would have been pragmatic to
exercise one or more of these choices to provide additional funds for defence in
the regular budget.
• Seen in this backdrop, it is just well that the finance minister did not
make routine statements in her speech about the government’s commitment to
defence and security of the nation and its willingness to make additional funds
available for the armed forces, if required.
• There is no point making promises that ring hollow when made and difficult
to keep when the time comes.
Needs for modernization
• It is also just as well that she did not announce setting up of the
long-talked-about non-lapsable fund for modernisation of the armed forces, which
she is known to have been supportive of when she was the defence minister.
• The practicality and utility of setting up such a fund is questionable,
notwithstanding the fact that even the standing committee on defence (SCoD) has
been supporting the idea.
• The crux of the matter is that the funds have to be raised by the finance
ministry through one or more of the means mentioned above, regardless of whether
these are made available via a non-lapsable modernisation fund or out of the
budget outlay for the year in which these are required by the armed forces.
• Bemoaning inadequacy of the budget outlay for defence is of no help.
• Serious efforts have to be made to figure out how the level of defence
funding can be raised in a sustainable manner without causing an adverse impact
on the funding for health, education, agriculture, infrastructure development,
and other social sector schemes.
• While everyone talks about the need to raise the defence budget no one
seems to have a clue as to how this can be done.
• It would also have been nice if in her speech the finance minister were to
give an account of the outcome of several measures announced in the past five
years: Constitution of the defence planning committee, commencement of the
industrial corridor project, unrolling of the defence technology fund, setting
up of an investor cell, promulgation of the strategic partnership scheme, and
several Make in India projects, just to mention a few.
• That she did not mention any of this in her speech needs to be taken in its
stride, though. The most pragmatic thing to do at this stage would be to quickly
reformulate the modernisation roadmap for the next five years making sure that
it conforms to the likely availability of funds. This has happened but rarely in
• Even as recently as in July 2017, the armed forces had sought Rs 27 lakh
crore over the next five years. This would have required defence budget to be
more than doubled.
• No serious discussion ensued to figure out how this feat could be achieved,
or if it could not be achieved, what would be the best alternative.
• It is time to get real and work according to a financially viable plan,
which recognises that money is going to be the biggest challenge till the
experts find a solution to the problem or India’s economy hits the $5-trillion
mark and starts yielding higher receipts for the government.
Q.1) With reference to the Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS),
consider the following statements:
1. Police officers across the country are using Automated Facial Recognition
System (AFRS) to identify criminals, missing people, and unidentified dead
bodies, as well as for “crime prevention”.
2. The artificial intelligence technology used for pattern-finding and matching
is called “neural networks”.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
A. 1 only
B. 2 only
Q.1) How Defence plans will have to factor in the shortage of government