The armed forces are facing a shortage of over 52,000 soldiers with the Army topping the list with over 21,000 vacant posts, the government said on Wednesday.
According to the details provided by Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre in the Lok Sabha, the Army is reeling under a shortage of 21,383 personnel, while the number of vacant posts in the Navy is 16,348 and 15,010 in the Air Force.
Moreover, the government allocated Rs 76,765 crore less to the Army, Navy and Air Force in the defence budget than what they had sought to purchase new weapons, aircraft, warships and other military hardware, according to official figures.
The three forces had demanded Rs 1.60 lakh crore as capital outlay but were granted Rs 83,434 crore for the year 2018-19, according to the details placed before the Lok Sabha by Bhamre.
Replying to a question, he said 7,680 posts of officers are lying vacant in the Army.
To a question on the Rafale deal, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said all relevant procedures were followed to ensure transparency in the acquisition of the 36 jets.
India had in 2016 inked an inter-governmental agreement with France for procuring 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore. The delivery of the jets is scheduled to begin from September 2019.
The Congress has been demanding details of the agreement, including the cost of equipment and weapons, alleging that the deal negotiated under its rule, were much cheaper than the contract signed by the Modi government.
"In the acquisition of 36 Rafale aircraft, all relevant procedure as laid down in defence procurement procedure were followed to ensure that due transparency existed in the entire acquisition process," Sitharaman said.
She said the government preferred the inter-governmental route to procure the jets considering critical operational requirement of the Indian Air Force.
Replying to a question on whether the nuclear-powered submarine Chakra, which was leased from Russia, suffered extensive damage, she said the information cannot be divulged in the interest of national security.
Bhamre also declined to share information, citing national security, when asked if indigenous nuclear submarine Arihant suffered major damage.
Replying to a separate question, he said the government believes that artificial intelligence has the potential to have transformative impact on security.
He said a task force headed by Chairman of Tata Sons N Chandrasekaran has been constituted to study strategic implementation of application of artificial intelligence for national security and defence needs.
Asked about the implementation of a project to strengthen 73 strategic roads along the India-China border, he said the work on 23 roads with a total length of 981 km had been completed.
He said the work on 33 other roads having a total length of 2,436 km was going on.
The project was approved by the government in 2006-07 and it was to be completed by 2012.
In the revenue outlay, which covers payment of salary, maintenance of establishments and other related expenditure, the allocation was Rs 35,371 crore less than what was demanded.
Overall the three forces were given Rs 1.21 lakh crore less than what they had demanded.
The three forces were known to be unhappy over inadequate allocation of resources, particularly for buying new weapons and platforms when the challenges on the borders with China and Pakistan were growing.
Reflecting the Army's anguish, Vice Chief of Army Lt Gen Sarath Chand has told a Parliamentary panel that the funds given to the force for the next fiscal were insufficient to deal with various security challenges.
He said the Army was struggling to make emergency procurements when China and Pakistan were modernizing their defence forces in ‘full swing’.
According to the details provided by Bhamre in the Lok Sabha while replying to a question, the Army was given Rs 17,756 crore less in the capital outlay and Rs 24,755 crore less under the revenue head than what was sought by it.
Similarly, the Navy's demand for capital outlay was Rs 37,932 crore, but it was given Rs 20,848 crore which was Rs 17,084 less than its demand.
Under capital outlay, the Indian Air Force was given Rs 41,924 crore less than what was demanded by the force.
The minister said that if required, the schemes will be reprioritised to ensure that urgent and critical capabilities of the three forces are acquired.
An outlay of Rs 2.95 lakh crore was set aside for the defence budget for the next fiscal.
The allocation, which was 1.58 per cent of the gross domestic product, was the lowest since 1962 when India and China fought a war.
Chand had said the inadequate allocation of funds will hit the Army's modernisation plan when the Chinese military was competing to reach the level of the US.
He had said 68 per cent of the Army's equipment is in the ‘vintage category’, and the fund crunch will also impact the serviceability of the existing equipment and may even affect payment of instalments for past purchases.