India’s defence minister hits back at criticism

Congress accused Modi government of taking defence ‘very lightly’ following a report which highlighted shortage of ammunition army was facing

New Delhi: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday targeted the previous Congress-led UPA government, saying the army faced ammunition shortage when it left the office in 2014 and that the issue has now been tackled by the Modi government.

“When we came in, there was ammunition shortage, there is no doubt about it. People who are accusing us today should also say where did the shortage come from,” Sitharaman said in response to a query at a press conference here.

“So, the debate about shortage now should tell me with all the outlays and all the decision making you want us to believe that was done before 2014, why was there shortage of ammunition then. You made the outlays, now you are alleging there is shortage now. You did not have shortage then. Why did you leave the country with ammunition shortage? Let us also look in those directions,” she added.

The minister, who compared the allocations and expenditure during the UPA government with that during the NDA government, said steps had been taken to overcome the ammunition shortage.

“Now I am telling you there is no shortage and that was the reason why powers were given to the headquarters, backed by enough funds, backed also by … that some of the capital purchases can also be facilitated through the revenue route,” she said.

The Congress has accused the Modi government of taking defence “very lightly” following a Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report which highlighted the shortage of ammunition that the Indian Army was facing.

The CAG report on the Army and ordnance factories, tabled in Parliament last year, had said that the Army was battling critical shortage of ammunition, especially for tanks and artillery, and 121 out of the 152 types of munition did not meet the minimum levels needed to fight a full-scale war.

It had said in the last few years, no significant improvement was made in the availability of War Wastage Reserve (WWR), which is ammunition needed to meet the requirements of 40 days of intense war or a full-scale war.


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