'Armed forces reeling under shortage of over 52K soldiers'
New Delhi: 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.
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 was 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.