New Delhi: At a time when our politicians are blaming Army Chief Gen VK Singh for allegedly leaking a crucial report to media on country’s military preparedness, they had least bothered when the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had highlighted serious gaps in India’s defence in its critical report much earlier than him.
A report published in a leading daily claimed on Friday that the CAG had in December last year pointed to the hollowness in India's battle preparedness even more critically than Gen Singh’s March 12 letter addressed to the PMO.
What is more frustrating that the same MPs, who were outraged with the Army Chief’s alleged leakage of a crucial report to the media, did nothing to verify the frightening picture of the country’s military preparedness presented by the CAG in its crucial report.
In its report, the CAG had said, “At present the artillery arm of Indian Army comprises of regiments holding a mix of various gun systems whose technology ranges from World War-II and those developed in the 1970s". Indian artillery, in other words, was obsolete.”
Pointing to the need for upgrading the weaponry and providing the modern technological know-how to the armed forces, the CAG was quoted as saying, “Artillery guns of modern technology could not be made available to the troops for over a decade for replacing the existing guns of obsolete technology of 1970 vintage. Acquisition of artillery guns included in the 10th Army Plan has not materialized till now. The abnormal delay in procurement of the new guns had not only impacted the operational preparedness of the Army but also resulted in substantial cost overrun."
Despite the startling revelations made by the CAG, the Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is empowered to verify the findings of the auditor, did nothing at that time.
The PAC, which is headed by Opposition leader BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi and comprises 21 members from top political parties, did not even take up the CAG’s findings for a detailed scrutiny.
In its stark report, the CAG had given a regiment-wise and weapon-wise detail of how the Army was facing an acute shortage of ammunitions and modern weaponery, which it should have to be able to defend the country’s sovereignty in the event of a war.
The CAG further stressed that since the controversial purchase of Bofors 155mm Howitzers guns in 1986, the nation has not acquired heavy artillery.
"Self-propelled guns are required to provide continuous fire support to mechanized formations, which normally operate cross-country in plains and deserts ... The Indian Army is presently holding SP guns with technology of 1970s, the CAG report stated, adding, “Acquisition of quantity 'X' of 155mm 52 calibre towed guns and self-propelled guns (wheeled/tracked) was included in the 10th Army Plan (2002-07) but could not materialize as of October 2010 ... This was to be replaced by the Army for its existing force level of 105mm/122mm/130mm guns of obsolete technology."
Not only this, a similar report on the status of Indian Navy was also tabled in Parliament in the Monsoon Session last year by the CAG but its findings were again ignored by our MPs, mainly the PAC.
The CAG report talked of India's lack of competitiveness in sea warfare.
"The Navy followed a flawed approach in acquiring its new fighter aircraft fleet by not finalizing the associated weapon package with the contract for it. Eleven out of 16 MiG 29K aircraft, acquired at a cost of $740 million (Rs 3,400 crore) have been delivered in December 2009 and May 2011. No item of armament contracted for in March 2006 has been delivered as of October 2010 adversely affecting the operational capabilities," it said.
Much hue and cry has been raised over Army Chief’s alleged leak of sensitive information related to the country’s defence preparedness and the political fraternity had even gone to the extent of demanding his resignation, blaming him for opening a covert war against the political establishment.
The disclosure comes at a time when the reported faceoff between Gen VK Singh and the Defence Minister AK Antony had dealt a serious blow to the morale of the Indian Army, which despite several shortcomings remain one of the world’s best armed forces.
Ironically, much later after the CAG’s tabled its stark report, General Singh is being summoned by the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence to explain why India Army was facing acute shortage of ammunition and equipment.
First Published: Friday, April 06, 2012, 09:38