For 10 years, zero defence purchases: Sitharaman in Rajya Sabha

Defence procurement under the UPA-led government was nil for 10 years, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Monday during a debate in the Rajya Sabha on supplementary spending for the current fiscal.

“For people, who are worried about the basic essentials for Defence, for soldiers, for their guns, for their bulletproof jackets, for the bullets, for the carbines and even for fighter aircraft, I want to tell that 10 years of Indian Defence history recorded nil purchases. Sir, 10 years were lost. After 2014, rapidly, we had to buy from pin to aircraft, everything,” Sitharaman said.

Defending the government’s proposal to cut interest rate on employees’ provident fund deposits to over four-decade low of 8.1 per cent, Sitharaman said the rate is dictated by today’s realities where interest rate on other small saving instruments was even lower.

She said the decision to lower the interest rate was taken by the central board of the provident fund managing body, EPFO, which has representatives of all stakeholders, including employee unions.

“The EPFO has a Central Board that takes the call on the rate. It has cut the rate down from 8.4 per cent to 8.1 per cent. I just want to lay these facts before the House that the EPFO Central Board, which has representatives from various stakeholders for the Pension Fund, the Employees Pension Fund, has taken a call. Forty years, it has not been brought down. Yes, forty years! There are today’s realities which do keep us in the context of decisions which are being taken by the Central Board of the EPFO. It has yet to come to the Finance Ministry for approval. But the fact remains, these are the rates which are prevailing today and it is still higher than the rest of them,” she added.

Later, the House returned a money Bill moved by Finance Minister, authorising the government for payment and appropriation of certain sums from the Consolidated Fund for the financial year 2021-22.
The Upper House of Parliament also returned another Appropriation Bill for the expenditure done in the 2018-19 financial year. Both the Appropriation Bills were passed by the Lok Sabha earlier.

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