This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth for Democracy. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Our Army Is The Second Largest In The World, So Why Are We Skimping On Their Expenses?

More from Youth for Democracy

“To criticize one’s country is to do it a service…. Criticism, in short, is more than a right; it is an act of patriotism-a higher form of patriotism, I believe, than the familiar rituals and national adulation.”

– J. William Fulbright

Our army needs modernisation. That is an often-repeated stance by people proclaiming to be ‘revolutionary’ in their knowledge of the defence systems. Unfortunately, no matter the government, the army has remained on the steady path of stagnation. In the last Union Budget (2017-18), our military expenditure as part of the GDP, was 1.62% of the projected GDP.

This is alarming given that this budget had an increase of 6% over the last year from ₹2.58 lakh to ₹2.74 lakh crores for defence. Plus, as reported by defence experts, this does not take into account inflation, the depreciation of the rupee or the customs duty that defence imports attract. To put things in perspective, between 1963 to 1981, the defence budget averaged 3.1% of the GDP.

Declining Money for Modernisation

Diving deeper, a study by the Institute for Defence Studies & Analysis showed that defence expenditure on modernisation dropped from 55% in 2007-08 to 40% in 2016-17. The ballooning pay and allowances component has eaten into that share.

This is because with the rising cost of pensions to ex-servicemen due to the implementation of OROP (One Rank One Pension) and the increasing size of our armed forces which is now about 15 lakh active personnel (second largest in the world), pay and allowances have ensured that our defence budget’s main priority is revenue expenditure, rather than capital expenditure.

In this Union budget, the percentage of capital expenditure as part of the defence budget, has gone down 38.73% in 2013-14 to 31.56%.  Simultaneously, the revenue expenditure increased to 68% from 61%.

The money that we do have for modernisation of the armed forces and their equipment is managed inefficiently. This is evidenced by the under-utilisation under the capital expenditure account of the defence budget by ₹20,000 crores for the last two financial years of 2015-16 and 2016-17. Inside the armed forces, the army is guilty of having the most underutilised funds with only 45-50% of capital funds being spent. For every ₹100 that the Government gave to the army for its modernisation, the army did not spend half that amount.

Either we have the world’s most technologically advanced army, or the money needs to be spent and spent better. The sad part is that these are lapsable. This means the amount which is not spent, gets returned to the Centre or adjusted in the revenue expenditure. What inability restricts the Ministry of Defence not to be able to spend this fund, which is not a lot in itself, properly?

It seems that the Defence Secretary of the Government of India has the answer. This is what they said during a hearing by the Standing Committee on Defence’s 27th report:

……the Defence Secretary very candidly submitted before the Committee that the money allocated for Capital acquisition was not in accordance with the requirements of the Services. The Services get whatever is allocated by the Ministry of Finance. The often repeated explanation of the Ministry in regard to the allocations not being commensurate with the projections is centred on the overall resource constraints of Government of India.”

The government, it seems, can spend on traditional advertising, cow meat detection kits for our police and cow urine studies, but remain cash-strapped, for funding the modernisation of our armed forces. The security and integrity of the nation is compromised when the army remains grossly under-funded.

Another gem from the Committee:

“The Committee find it very surprising that instead of increasing the allocation, the Ministry has reduced the budget for Capital acquisitions for the Forces. As can be seen, all the three Services have witnessed a drop in allocation not only at the RE of 2015-16 but also in the BE 2016-17 allocations. The back to back decline in allocation comes at a time when all the three Services have several mega procurement contracts (including the one for procuring Rafale fighters) to be finalized.”

How are we supposed to get everything from bullet-proof jackets to efficient subsystems if the money to get it, is just not there?

Arms Importation

We are the world’s largest arms importer. In the face of hostile neighbours, we are heavily dependent on other countries for our weapons. Russia accounts for the largest, with 68% of all arms coming from them in the last five years.

This points to a lack of development in our domestic defence sector. No private company is big enough to be the next Lockheed Martin or BAE Systems in India. Even though India and Russia have been historically tight-knit allies, the hegemony of Russia as a supplier means our own defence companies shall suffer and be unable to produce competent weapons.

Indigenous weapons (or domestically-made weapons) need to be the centrepiece of any defence policy and the roll-out of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), which is the regulatory policy for all defence transactions on or after April 1, 2016, was welcomed.

With the recent Rafale fighter jet deal being in the limelight, without getting into the actual deal, what it has exposed, is the faulty pricing methodology of the policy. There is a lack of costing mechanisms within the DPP itself, and that starts with the absence of a price database. The standards of pricing are also absent and must be clearly defined, which form the basis of the initial deal. The presence of this benchmark might have cleared up the Rafale deal regarding why one political party accused another that their contract was higher priced than the one before it.

Defence deals take several years, from the principle agreement to the final agreement, the expenditure keeps changing due to inflation and other factors, which is why a pricing database must be kept under the DPP policy, that too, based on other successful contracts from developed countries.

Our importation needs to be curbed, and the DPP policy must be tweaked to ensure the aggressive domestic growth of our defence sector.

Inadequate Reserves

War-wastage reserve (WWR) are the reserves of ammunition for fighting a sudden intense war. For the Indian army, this is 40 days also known as the 40-I level. The CAG pointed out very recently that the army has still not improved on this front. Out of a total of 152 types of ammunition, the stock of 121 types of ammunition (80%) was below the authorization level of 40 days of WWR. There were even several reports that the Army had put ‘restrictions’ on training due to lack of ammunition. Further, 55 % of different types of ammunition were below the MARL (Minimum Acceptable Risk Level). About 40% of different types of ammunition had stock of fewer than 10 days.

The inadequacy of our Ordnance Factories Board is also to be blamed here for their less than perfect supply. Again, done so by our federal auditor, the CAG. Some believe that changing the definition of the WWR to be 20 or even 10 days might be better as conflicts will be shorter and more intense in the future. Plus, the size of the army hinders the maintenance of such a high level of stock.


All in all, these are just the tip of the iceberg. Our politicians need to move beyond the rhetoric of the army and provide reforms into the wide-ranging defence area. Some extra ones, not mentioned, include:

1. Cut the army size: An unpopular opinion, however, size does not equate to strength. Ask any military expert and they would prefer a lean engine much better than a brute one that is woefully unprepared. Even though we are the second largest army in the world, we still face shortages and our sanctioned strength is considerably greater than our actual strength. Perhaps one way to deal with two issues – payment of the salaries/pensions of soldiers and maintaining an inventory of so many soldiers could be addressed through this. The cost of personnel must be contained so as not to burden the taxpayer.

2. Restructure the DGR (Directorate General Re-settlement): The DGR provides for employment opportunities for ex-servicemen. Our veterans were prepared to lay down their lives for this country, a basic expectation, of helping them settle back into society must be correctly done. In another Defence Standing Committee report, the committee saw that no one in the field of banking, insurance, management and marketing consultancy in DGR, Rashtriya Sainik Boards and Zilla Sainik Boards were employed. That needs to change. Private companies also need to be attracted to give employment to our veterans as reservation in public companies will not suffice. Therefore, the necessary changes should be examined.

3. Representation in the Central Pay Commission: The Committee also found that there was absolutely no representation of the Armed Forces in the Central Pay Commission. Given that expenditure on the army is important, no representation on a body which decides the pay for all things related to the Government, needs to be amended so that the problems of the army’s pay can be addressed by someone knowledgeable on the issue.

4. Encourage private participation in the defence sector: Our MSMEs and SMEs can contribute greatly here. Not just big companies, but even in India’s small businesses in the defence sector, it has been seen that they possess the know-how, the resourcefulness and general capability. Reportedly, they supplied around 10,000 products to the defence sector, however, a clear policy stops them from capturing a significant market share. Like I mentioned, revising the DPP is one step, however, the sense of the DPP must also be changed from ‘who is the cheapest supplier?’ to ‘who has the best quality?’ Research & Development must be emphasised during negotiations and tenders.

Not just domestically, however, even for international partnerships between foreign countries/companies and our SMEs, there must be a single window for exports. Finally, our SMEs should also learn the best practices, which is why, transfer of technology during government-to-government contracts or joint-ventures are essential.

5. Improve the fund managers of the defence account: As seen with the non-utilisation of funds, the managers of the defence account need to be much more efficient with their investments. Their aim is to balance the minimum requirements of the Armed Forces, modernize them, without straining the national economy. What also must be balanced is that all services, including the Air Force and the Navy, get their fair share.

On this Armed Forces Day, the focus must not be on grand-standing and empty rhetoric, but, to move toward a system of fiscal prudence in managing the pay and allowances of the Armed Forces, aggressive modernisation of their equipment and promotion of private businesses, especially small ones, in the defence sector. In a neighbourhood rife with hostility, our forces must take precedence over political promises.

You must be to comment.
  1. Akshay Hurria

    Well Done!

More from Youth for Democracy

Similar Posts

By Ritwik Trivedi

By Atul Upadhyay

By Tanvi sharma

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below