Congress attacks government on defence expenditure, cites panel report

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New Delhi, Aug 21 (IANS) The Congress on Tuesday cited a report of Parliament’s Estimates Committee headed by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi to attack the Modi government by claimed that it revealed “defence expenditure at 1.6 per cent of the GDP in 2017-18 was the lowest since 1962, when India-China war was fought”.

The party claimed that the report also said that the share of capital procurement budget in the defence budget “has been continuously declining and noted that it compromised the safety and security of the nation”.

“It has decreased from 39 per cent in 2013-14 to 34 per cent in 2018-19,” the party said.

The party said out of the 30 Lok Sabha MPs who serve on that committee, 16 are from the BJP. The party asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman “if this made India stronger or does this make India weaker”.

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Congress Spokesperson Manish Tewari said: “The Estimates Committee came out with a report after considering the subject for 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18. They prepared a report after great deliberation, which was unanimously adopted.

“And that report is the Estimate Committee’s Report on Defence Production and Procurement. It makes for some extremely worrying revelations as it has a direct bearing on our defence preparedness and national security.”

Quoting the committee report, Tewari said: “The committee noted that defence expenditure as a percentage of total central government expenditure has declined from 13 per cent in 2014-15 to 12 per cent in 2017-18.

“… defence expenditure as a percentage of GDP has ranged between 2 per cent in 2014-15 to 1.6 per cent in 2017-18. The defence expenditure at 1.6 per cent of GDP in 2017-18 was the lowest since 1962 when the India-China war was fought.

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“The committee stated that in the current geo-political scenario, India cannot afford complacency with regard to defence preparedness,” the Congress leader said.

“This is not a Congress report; this is not an opposition report. This is a report unanimously adopted by the Estimates Committee of Parliament headed by a BJP MP on which 16 BJP MPs serve,” he added.

Talking about this government’s track record, Tewari said: “This country is unfortunately at its weakest because of the wrong policies which have been pursued by the NDA government in both foreign policy and defence preparedness realms.”

He also pointed out that in March 2018, during the Budget Session of Parliament, the Standing Committee on Defence, tabled a report on Capital Outlay on Defence Services Procurement Policy and Defence Planning.

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“That committee is also chaired by a BJP MP B.C. Khanduri. What does that report say? It said that the Vice Chief of Army Staff in his candid submission before the Committee claimed that the marginal increase in capital budget allocation for the Army had dashed their hopes as it has barely enough to cater to the rise in expenses on account of inflation and did not even cater for taxes,” said Tewari.

–IANS

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