New Delhi, Feb.4 : Defence Minister A K Antony today ruled out the deployment of the Army for containing Naxal violence across the country.
"I am totally opposed to the Army being moved against Naxal elements. The Army cannot be used against everything and should be called in only as a last resort", the Minister said while replying to questions on a sidelines of a Defence Financial Controllers' conference here on Monday.
"Taking on the Naxalites is the role of the police forces, and whenever the need arises, para-military forces can be deployed," he added.
On recurring mishaps involving naval warships and submarines, Antony said: " The naval authorities had been asked to take necessary precautions to ensure that accidents do not happen as weapon platform comes at a premium price tag".
He described the death of sailors on INS Jalashwa as "tragic and sad".
"Though preliminary reports suggest that the deaths occurred due to gas leaks", the Minister said investigations were on to unravel the cause of the mishap.
Asked about the reasons behind the recent spate of accidents involving naval warships sinking of INS Prahar off the Goa coast and recent collision between the kilo class submarine and a merchant ship off Mumbai coast, the Defence Minister said these were all being probed.
Turning to cross-border infiltration in Jammu and Kashmir, he said there was not much variation in the situation on the borders.
"The situation by and large is peaceful and well under control," he said.
On suicides and fratricides in the armed forces, the minister said: "There have been some visible improvements, though one should not expect miracles to happen in a short time. Our counselling efforts and other moves seems to be having an effect."
Earlier while addressing the conference, the Defence Minister called upon officials of his ministry to adopt a humane approach towards the requirements of ex-servicemen and acknowledge the sacrifices made by soldiers while in active service.
Antony said the mechanics of financial management and prudence should not be allowed to overshadow the human side of the ministry's and armed forces work.
"Government attaches great importance to the welfare of ex-servicemen. The creation of an Ex-servicemen's Welfare Department in the Ministry of Defence headed by its own Secretary is an indication of the significance being attached to this area. I would like to call upon the Defence Accounts Department, which plays an important role in the management of pay and allowances and pensionary benefits, to approach the requirements of our ex-servicemen with all sensitivity and seriousness," he said.
He also asked financial managers to upgrade their procedures and techniques by drawing upon the best practises followed the world over in the fields of audit, project management, logistics and budgeting.
The latest delegation and enhancement of financial powers is expected to result in 46 percent of the overall revenue procurement and 35 percent of capital procurement budget being spent under the delegated powers by the Services Headquarters.
In this context, Anthony asked the financial managers and the Services 'to sit together and work out practical solutions' so that budgetary allocations are fully utilised conforming to established procedures and the principles of financial prudence.
Antony said defence expenditure has grown considerably over the years, and today, it constitutes the largest single head of expenditure in the budget after interest payments.
The share of capital allocations in the defence budget has increased significantly from around 25 percent in 2000-01 to over 40 percent today.
The three-day conference will be deliberating upon a number of critical issues relating to defence expenditure.
Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju, Defence Secretary Vijay Singh, Financial Advisor (Defence Services) Neil Kamal Narang and Controller General of Defence Accounts H K Pannu were the others who addressed participants on the first day of the three-day conference.