Friday 19 July 2019

Anger over Indian security spend on golf carts

Rhys Blakely in Mumbai

At first sight the deal looked honourable: Indian army chiefs claimed they had spent 10 million rupees (E148,000) on silent reconnaissance vehicles for missions beyond enemy lines.

This week, however, it was revealed that they had bought 22 golf buggies, several of which were deployed to patrol the army's Shivalik Golf Course in Chandigarh.

The scandal emerged in a scathing audit of the military's recent spending by India's civil servants after army chiefs were given powers over their expanding budgets to combat terrorism.

The report details how the army bought Dhruv helicopters that can fly to a height of only 5,000 metres -- well short of the 6,500 metres required to patrol the Himalayan battlefields.

Thousands of Russian-made heavy artillery shells that do not fire were bought and the Northern Command, which oversees Kashmir, bought stretchers that were unsuitable.

Buggies

It was the details of how military chiefs apparently diverted funds to the upkeep of their golf courses that has rankled most. An additional five golf buggies, worth 1.5 million rupees (E22,000), were bought by the Western Command. It was claimed that the electric multi-utility vehicles were to be used to transport patients in military hospitals. Several actually went to courses in Ambala and Jalandhar.

The allegations come at a sensitive time for India's security services. The terror attack in Mumbai in November led to criticism after frontline forces were left to tackle militant gunmen with ageing rifles and faulty armour.

To close the gap with its regional rival, China, the budget for weapons was raised by a third last year to E8bn.

The overall defence budget was increased by another 25pc this year, eclipsing the total spent on health and education combined. (© The Times, London)

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