NEW DELHI: Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday began his second inning as defence minister with additional responsibility but has many challenges and to complete ‘unfinished’ agenda of his predecessor Manohar Parrikar, who approved record number of military purchases of over Rs 2 lakh crore in last two years. From strategic partnership to give level playing field for private players in military procurement, appointment of the top most military person will be on the cards for Jaitley, which Parrikar left ‘unfinished’.
Admitting that defence ministry has a district responsibility as its concerns country’s security, Jaitley said that he will take forward the work from where Parrikar had left. Parrikar on Tuesday took over as the chief minister of Goa.
Parrikar’s abrupt departure from the South Blockl has virtually left several critical tasks unfinished, including military reforms and enhancing Make in India policy. From new procurement policy to give more push to private players in defence sector to coming out with blacklisting policy that gives defence ministry enhanced powers to check in defence deals, Parrikar’s unfinished agenda will be certainly be a challenge for Jaitley, who will only look after defence as additional portfolio.
Parrikar during his tenure of over two years managed to clear several critical purchases including purchase of 21 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers alongwigh 145 howitzers and bulk production of 18 Dhanush artillery guns to strengthen its artillery firepower, which has been seen any purchases since Bofors scandal.
Parrikar also made biggest deal of his tenure in September last year, when India had inked a Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) deal with France for purchasing 36 Rafale warplanes.
In fact, Jaitley had earlier held the additional responsibility of defence from May to November 2014.
“We have a continuous government and I will take it up from where Parrikar has left it," he told reporters here.
But Jaitley will have to wear two hats, as he is holding finance ministry, which has often been criticized for not allocating enough budget to the armed forces. Only last, a parliament panel headed by B C Khanduri, while agreeing with the defence ministry over marginal growth of budgetary allocation is not at all sufficient and the Finance Ministry must consider increasing the funds for modernisation of the services also pointed out several requirement for the armed forces that are hampering its preparedness including, helicopters, aircraft, warships and even basic infantry weapons.
Lawmakers also pulled up the government for not making adequate budgetary grants for improving security of strategic installations, the parliamentary panel pointed out deficiencies in the sphere of providing bullet proof jackets to soldiers, latest weapons, machineries and surveillance equipment. Once equipped, it will assist the forces in “maintaining a robust and effective response mechanism to counter emerging threats,” the report said.
“However, the budgetary provisions made under the Demands for Grants 2017-18 as well as the dismal status of capital procurements do not reciprocate the seriousness required towards meeting out defence needs,” the panel observed.