New Delhi: Facing shortage of funds to create a strategic naval base on the Eastern Coast, the Indian Navy is reportedly planning to partially lease a private shipyard to berth its new aircraft carrier.
The 31-member Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence was told by the Navy that the proposed secretive base on the eastern coast, which was to house frontline nuclear submarines and warships, was among the defence projects impacted by the fund crunch, sources said.
Operationalisation of Defence Space Agency, Defence Cyber Agency, and Armed Forces Special Operations Division (AFSOD) — all new initiatives taken up by the Narendra Modi government — too have been delayed, the standing panel was told.
The aircraft carrier, to be named INS Vikrant, was to operate from the new base codenamed Project Varsha. Besides berthing facilities for large warships, it will have underground pens for a nuclear submarine fleet. The base was originally planned to be commissioned by 2018.
As an interim measure, the Navy is looking to lease a portion of a shipyard near Chennai, sources said.
“The case for leasing of the 260 m berth at M/s L&T shipyard, Kattupalli for a period of eight years (2022-2030) for interim berthing of IAC on the East Coast has been taken up with MoD (defence ministry),” the Navy has informed the committee. “The total financial implications for leasing the berth along with ‘ready to use’ infrastructure are Rs 30.48 crore per year plus Rs 48 crore refundable deposit,” it said.
The armed forces, which have raised the issue of a lack of funds for the past several years, have also warned that implications of the budget shortfall will hit the tri-services initiatives, which are now being looked after by the Chief of Defence Staff.
Besides the inability to operationalise the new commands, the lack of funds would lower the “operational readiness of the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) ships”, the committee has been informed.
The committee report suggested that CDS will need to work on getting adequate budgets for his planned reorganisation of forces, given that initiatives taken up in the past are yet to be completed due to a lack of funds. Taking note of the fund shortfall, the committee has asked the government to improve allocations for the armed forces, noting that in 2019-20, a shortfall of Rs 67,541 crore was projected by the ministry but it has got additional allocation of only Rs 7,000 crore.