Referring to the recent submarine accidents, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said on Thursday that the defence ministry should “learn a lesson” and spend the funds allocated to it “more wisely” and “more efficiently on essential matters”. He also took on the judiciary, saying it was the judicial system which failed to punish the corrupt.
Speaking at an NSUI function, Chidambaram said the finance ministry has provided “the maximum amount that we can afford and a little more” to the defence ministry. In the last budget, he said the allocation for defence was Rs 2.25 lakh crore, which is a “lot of money”.
He was responding to a question from a delegate, who claimed to be the sister of Lt Commander Kapish Muwal who was killed in the INS Sindhuratna fire, on why the government was “not sanctioning money for our safety and security.”
Chidambaram said it was not correct to say that enough funds had not been provided. “There is no such thing as enough. Our requirements are so large. We require money for defence, MNREGS, old age pension, scholarships, paying wages. It is a question of allocating money. And for defence, we have provided the maximum amount that we can afford and a little more,” he said.
“How is that money spent? If Rs 2.25 lakh crore is allotted to defence, how is it spent? Should it be spent on maintenance, acquiring new equipment, training, raising a new battalion — these are questions which are decided by the very senior officers of the Army, Navy and the Air Force,” he said.
Referring to the INS Sindhuratna, he said, “I am sincerely sorry, and I say this with responsibility, that at some point of time the maintenance of the submarine appears to have been neglected. Only an inquiry will prove the fact (but) from what reports I have read (it) appears to be neglected. There seems to be some problem with the battery that led to the fire, and two precious lives were lost. But I sincerely hope that the defence forces will learn a lesson and make sure that the money allocated to them is spent more wisely and more efficiently on essential matters,” he said.
On the issue of corruption, Chidambaram said it was not enough to just make laws. The laws have to be enforced and the guilty have to be punished, he said. “The judges lecture the government everyday. But let me say with humility, the failure to punish the corrupt is entirely the responsibility of our judicial system. It is our judicial system that failed to punish the corrupt,” he said.
“Corruption cases drag on for 20 or 30 years. You take disciplinary action against a government servant. It takes 10 years by the time you find him guilty and punish him. And finally the court will set it aside on some technical (grounds),” he said.
In an apparent reference to AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa, Chidambaram said a disproportionate assets case against a Chief Minister “is going on since 1997… Unless you punish the guilty there is no point in making new laws.”