indian army
Indian Army soldiers take their positions near the site of a gunbattle on the outskirts of Srinagar.Reuters

In a major embarrassment to the Modi government, the Indian Army has put temporary allowances paid to officers when they travel for purposes such as tours and trainings on hold, citing lack of funds. A notice was briefly put up on the accounts division of the Army announcing the news. Following a huge uproar in the media, the notice was pulled down. An Army officer requesting anonymity said that such posts were "uncalled for" and painted a "poor picture."

Later on, the defence ministry clarified that there was no dearth of funds. "It is stated that adequate funds stand allocated under all heads, including the heads for temporary and permanent duty," a defence ministry spokesman said, according to ANI.

The post put up by the Principal Comptroller of Defence Accounts (PCDA), Pune, the agency that disburses salaries and emoluments to officers, read: "Due to insufficient funds available under Temporary duty and Permanent Duty Heads of Army officers, no TA/DA advances and claims can be processed until receipt of sufficient funds under the relevant heads. However, the facility for Leave Travel Concession will continue." The PDA operates under Ministry of Defence (MoD) and is entrusted with pre-audit and payment of pay and allowances and all claims of Army officers.

"It can potentially disrupt the Army's day-to-day functioning. For instance, over 50% of officers on temporary duty at any given time have been tasked to attend courses, which are less than 180 days in duration, at different places."
- Indian Army Officer

It is to be noted that the overall costs for the movement and other expenses of all the officers, JCOs (Junior commissioned officers) and other ranks comes around Rs. 4000 crore per year. But, the PCDA was allotted only Rs. 3200 crore which has already been exhausted even before the end of fiscal year. Another officer in the Army stated: "An additional amount – of about Rs 800 crore - has been allocated to tide over the crisis."

Zojila pass
Indian army soldiers travel in a vehicle on a mountainous road covered by snow after the Srinagar-Leh highway was opened to traffic in Zojila.Reuters

Notably, the news of the cash crunch in the Army comes days after Finance Minister announced the defence budget going over the figure of Rs. 3 lakh crore for the first time in history. However, the allocation of the budget to the Army has only gone up by 6.9 percent year on year basis as against 7 to 10 percent previously. The opposition parties were quick to criticise the Modi government soon after the notice was put on the website. Convenor of AICC Communications, Priyanka Chaturvedi, slammed the Modi government for "cheating the army".