Pathankot Fallout: Special Powers To Armed Forces For Security Upgrade

This is the second time this month that Defence Minister Arun Jaitley has attempted to work around bureaucratic delays that plague spending and acquisition by the military.

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Pathankot Fallout: Special Powers To Armed Forces For Security Upgrade

The defence ministry gave special powers to top defence officers to spend money on securing their camps

NEW DELHI:  A Rs. 2,000 crore blueprint to upgrade security at defence installations that has been caught up in bureaucratic red tape could finally get off the ground. The NDA government on Thursday declared the Armed Forces were being given "substantial financial powers" to revamp security of 3,000 sensitive installations without seeking approvals from the defence ministry.

The forces had drawn up the plan on the advice of a high-level committee set up after the January 2016 terrorist attack on the Pathankot air base. One mandate of the panel was to come up with a to-do list for the military that would make it near-impossible for terrorists to get into a defence establishment again.

The committee led by a former Vice Chief of Army, Lt General Philip Campose had pushed for installing gadgets such as motion sensors, cameras, entry barriers and metal detectors at military bases, deploying well-equipped commandos and periodic security audits to identify loopholes.

Much of this wish list had remained on paper due to delays in the armed forces complying with cumbersome procedures followed for defence-related expenditure.

In May, NDTV reported how the army didn't get a single paisa from the defence ministry.

Two months later, the defence ministry said it had taken "an unprecedented move" to expedite the security upgrade.

A defence ministry statement said Vice-Chiefs of the army, navy and air force had been empowered to place orders, procure equipment and carry out civil works on their own without seeking further approvals from the ministry in Delhi.

"The financial delegation represents a significant jump in the powers currently exercised by the Services," a defence ministry statement said.

But Defence Minister Arun Jaitley has also fixed strict timelines for the uniformed forces. This would "ensure that the works are undertaken on priority and in a time-bound manner to ensure full security of our critical defence assets," the statement said.

This is the second time this month that Defence Minister Arun Jaitley has attempted to work around bureaucratic delays that plague spending and acquisition by the military. Earlier this week, Mr Jaitley had given the Army's Vice Chief Lieutenant General Sarath Chand full financial powers to buy critical weapons systems and to maintain combat readiness for short wars.

That terrorists had continued to attack defence installations after the Pathankot air base attack too had underlined the urgency in taking remedial measures.

Nine months after Pathankot attacks, four heavily armed terrorists had breached security at the army's brigade headquarters at Jammu and Kashmir's Uri near the Line of Control and killed 19 soldiers. India retaliated 11 days later when it carried out surgical strikes at terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

But back home, the effort to scale up security at Indian defence installations had been moving slowly. Around the time the government finally revised security guidelines for sensitive installations on the advice of the expert committee, terrorists attacked another army base in November 2016, this time in Jammu and Kashmir's Nagrota.

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