The tag of, 'Iron lady' may be the best fit for the newly appointed defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Within days after induction in the defence ministry she made her first public statement snubbing the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) on the shortage of ammunition.
Sitharaman who was visiting the Uttarlai Air Force base at Barmer, Rajasthan dismissed the CAG report which stated that the defence sector suffered shortage of ammunition as, “factually wrong”.
The minister asserted there was no dearth of weapons with the defence forces. She held that the facts were wrong and that it was not necessary to debate on the issue."After taking the charge of defence ministry, I have discussed the issue with senior officers and experts. purchasing weapons is a continuous process," she said.
What the CAG report said:
In it's report of 2015 the CAG had mentioned that the defence sector is in great need of budgetary support in order to reach at least 50 per cent of the target of War Wastage Reserve (WWR).
WWR refers to those materials which are in reserve by the army and are put to use in times of war. In an ideal situation the WWR should last for at least 40 days in times of intense war which gives the ordinance factories enough time to ramp up production and supply to the military.
The CAG report also said that with proper budgetary support the shortfall in ammunition could be overcome by 2019.It criticised the state-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) for inadequate quantity of ammunition supplied to the Army since March 2013.
At a time when Indian armed forces was engaged with China at the Dokalam plateau, the CAG came up with it's report saying that the Indian armed forces did not have enough ammunition to sustain a war for even 20 days.
The Sitharaman effect:
From now on a new practice will be regularised in the Ministry of Defence headed by Nirmala Sitharaman. Daily morning meetings with all the three service chiefs and a separate meeting with the defence secretary will now be put to practice.
Other areas of focus would be settling all outstanding land related issues for infrastructure projects and matters relating to welfare of defence personnel and their families.