Attacking Government over defence preparedness and shortage of equipment, the Bharatiya Janata Party [ Images ] specifically targetted Defence Minister A K Antony in Rajya Sabha saying his "no work, no mistake and clean image" was a dangerous policy.
Initiating a discussion on the working of defence ministry, Balbir Punj demanded that the defence budget be increased to three per cent of the GDP from less than even 2 per cent (1.9 and 1.8 per cent) now.
The BJP member also demanded that the government should implement the one rank one pension scheme for the forces. He rued that India [ Images ] with its vast challenges spends less
than 2 per cent, while a country such as the United States spends 4 per cent of its GDP on defence, Russia [ Images ] 3.5 per cent, Pakistan 3 per cent, France [ Images ] and UK 2.3 per cent and China 2.1 per cent.
Rejecting the government's figures about rise in the budget for defence procurement, Punj said that when seen in the context of dollar value, the statistics of 17 per cent increase in the defence budget is merely "window dressing" and an exercise in "public relation".
He said that even statistically the increase in this year's defence budget is only 13 per cent if the revised budget of this year and last year is compared. The BJP leader said it seems that Antony, who is close to top in the United Progressive Alliance [ Images ], did not give his push for increase in the defence budget and questioned "whether the budget will allocate money only to those departments, which fetch votes".
In an oblique reference to UPA ally Mamata Banerjee [ Images ], Punj wondered whether the Finance Minister will give money only to the chief ministers of allies who arm-twist and threaten.
He said while the country's defence budget is very less, even that allocated money is not spent fully. "The Army and the Air Force surrendered Rs 5,727 crore. This is a matter of great concern and shame," Punj said. He said the minister should not hesitate from taking a decision due to "fear" that somebody will raise a finger on him and urged him to lead from the front.
Raking up the issue of the Army Chief General V K Singh's allegations regarding purchase of Tatra trucks, Punj questioned as to why the defence minister kept mum when the army chief first apprised him of the issue.
"That is a big question. Why did you not take all those actions, which you are taking now after the matter came into public domain? Why did you keep mum? That is a big question," he said but at the same time maintained Antony is "honest".
Punj also pointed out that Massimo, Bofors accused Quattrochi's son, had set up office in Bengaluru [ Images ] in 2004, "merely 200 meters away from the unit where these Tatra trucks were to be assembled."
Pointing out the huge gap in the prices of defence equipment prepared in the country by the DRDO, which were found to cost much more than those being imported, he said
announcements for private-public partnership for manufacturing in defence sector only remains limited to announcements.
"There is a strong import lobby here, which does not want manufacturing to be carried out here. Their patrons are not just sitting in defence ministry but at many other higher positions," Punj said telling the Defence Minister that he should take action against those who took commissions in arms deals.
He said the minister will have to fight the import lobby, which is not an easy job, if he has to strengthen the country's defence preparedness and make the forces self-reliant.
Noting that pilots of Indian Air Force are not receiving their first stage training on HPT aircraft while even for the second stage of their training, IAF has only 81 Kiran aircraft as against the requirement of 234.
"You have phased out old planes and do not have plan to purchase new ones," he said, adding that there is shortage of 25 per cent officers in forces with 10,546 posts were vacant out of a total strength of 47,762.
Pointing out to the death of 171 pilots in accidents, Punj said that the government has been saying that 46 per cent of these crashes are due to human errors.
"Human errors happen as training is not completed. Do not say these are accidents. These are murders," he said, adding the aircraft these pilots fly have become "flying coffins" and demanded that those responsible for this should be exposed.
"You should make good use of your stature within your party. You have rare access to Sonia Gandhi [ Images ]. Use that and get three per cent of the country's GDP for defence budget and uncover" those (import lobbies), who take away the money of the defence personnel and take commissions in defence deals, Punj said.
"Like the forces lead from the front, you also lead from the front and break the UPA's tradition" of only constituting committees, he said. "Parliament and the whole nation will be with you," he said.
Punj pointed out threat to Indian territory from neighbouring Pakistan and China wondering under such circumstances how could government think of converting Siachen into a symbol of peace and recalling troops from there.
He was referring to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's [ Images ] speech in 2005 that, "Siachen is called the highest battlefield...Now time has come that...this is converted from a point of conflict to the symbol of peace."
The government is spending Rs 5 crore daily "just to keep it (Siachen) in hold" which translates into Rs 18,025 crore a year while the neighbouring nation, which has not abided by any treaty, is engaged in anti-India activities there, he said.
Flagging concerns on Gilgit, he said Pakistan has allowed Chinese troops to engage thousands of labourers, engineers and workers in construction work.