New Delhi,Deevakar Anand: Does the life of an Indian Army soldier come cheap? The third-largest army in the world is struggling to ensure for its men the bare minimum protection against enemy – bullet-proof jackets.
Image: Sudhir Shetty dna
Though the government claims that at present bullet-proof jackets are available as per the entitlement, they admit that after next year, their shelf life will come to an end.
And with time running out, there seems to be no headway in procuring the new set of life-saving jackets, for which the army has been struggling since 2009.
There is a critical requirement of 1,86,138 bullet-proof jackets for soldiers. The defence acquisition council (DAC) under the UPA government had given its approval for procuring the jackets in 2009 itself.
The UPA was in power for good five years after that but they could not buy the much-needed jackets. The Modi government too has failed the jawans and officers even one year after assuming office.
It has left the parliamentary standing committee on defence headed by BJP MP from Uttarakhand Major General BC Khanduri (retired) 'perturbed'.
"It is an unpleasant surprise for the committee that in spite of critical shortages of bullet-proof jackets being highlighted in the previous report too, there is no improvement in the situation. It is alarming. It needs an explanation," fumed the parliamentary panel in its latest report submitted earlier this week. It has asked the government for a report on this within two months.
After the DAC approval in October, 2009, the ministry of defence (MoD) asked 39 vendors to send proposals for buying the jackets in December 2012. Out of 39, only six responded .
When pulled up for the delay by the standing committee, the MoD gave this explanation: "The case is at a trial stage. Efforts are on to complete the acquisition process as early as possible."
Unimpressed, the panel has called it a "man made" and a "very serious" issue.
Conspicuously, after 2009, no new procurement proposal has been made for these life-saving jackets, and the current requirement of 1,86,138 of them is based on assessments done prior to 2009.
In fact, in 2012 , the cabinet committee on security had put the requirement of jackets at 3,53,765. But this could never be further formalised since the government struggled to procure the first lot of 1,86,138 jackets itself.
Experts believe that considering the approved specifications of the bullet-proof jackets needed by the Indian Army -- for its unique operational and technical requirements -- their price should be close to Rs 50,000 per piece.