India’s accounting watchdog Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) as well as the Parliamentary Committee on Defence have once again exposed the chinks in the armour of the Armed Forces and Defence Ministry in its latest reports. While CAG has pointed out a two-decade-delay in commissioning a forward airfield of the IAF, the Parliamentary Committee has pointed out that only about 40 per cent progress has been achieved in the infrastructure and road projects along the border. In addition, CAG indicated that the IAF has not activated an airfield for fighter aircraft use.
Following the CAG outburst, Defence Ministry has directed the IAF to ensure that all strategic projects are completed as per the schedule. The CAG has pointed that despite an allotment of roughly $ 5.25 million for completing the airfield project, the constant plan modifications and indecision by IAF has led to a two decade delay in the formation of a strategic forward base airfield.
While the Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is scrutinizing the matter, Defence Ministry has assured that one airfield at Phalodi (Rajasthan) is now being optimally utilised by fighter aircraft. In addition, Defence Ministry has urged the IAF to undertake some comprehensive planning to ensure the timely creation of airbases without delays or cost overruns.
Regarding the Phalodi airfield project, Defence Ministry has accepted that there has been a two decade delay due to bad planning. While the land was acquired in 1986, actual construction did not take off since the budget was utilised for more pressing requirements leading to cost escalation of $ 50.5 million in 2002. While funds were released in 2004, roughly two decades had passed making a sham out of the fast-track nature of the project. The fighter aircraft operations commenced from the airfield only from 2010.
CAG’s second contention was regarding the approval of an Air Force Station at Cholvaram near Chennai by inducting a squadron of fighters from the authorised force level in June, 1984. This base was proposed to provide air Defence cover to certain sensitive installations. However, the state government disapproved this base in 1987 and relocation to an airfield Thanjavur was decided. However this time, it was the IAF which questioned nature and priority of the base in 1989. Eventually, the IAF reduced the proposed base into a maintenance unit.
Besides the CAG, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has also pointed out the delays in roads and infrastructure projects of the Defence ministry. The committee has stated that the delay in building 73 strategically important roads facing China is worrisome since it jeopardizes the position of the Indian Armed forces. China, on the other hand, has a robust rail and road links till the Line of Actual Control.
The Parliamentary Committee on Defence has revealed that out of the 73 roads, only 15 roads were completed so far with overall progress of 43 per cent. This highlights the inability of the Defence Ministry to deliver the crucial Defence infrastructure projects on time. All the 73 roads, some located in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, were to be completed by 2012.