Ministry slammed for failure to buy bulletproof jackets

Ministry slammed for failure to buy bulletproof jackets

The Defence Ministry on Thursday has come under heavy fire from the Parliamentary Standing Committee for its failure to obtain the life-saving bulletproof jackets for soldiers even after six years, despite knowing that the shelf life of existing stock would expire in 2016-17.

In a strongly worded report tabled on the last day of the Parliament, the panel asked the Defence Ministry to come out of slumber and purchase the bulletproof jackets in a fast- track route.

The scathing remarks follow an admission from the Defence Ministry that it took more than six years to arrive at the trial stage of the bulletproof jackets after the Defence Acquisition Council, headed by the defence minister, approved the purchase.

Also, the government ordered lesser number of these life-saving jackets. Although the authorisation is for 3,53,765 bulletproof jackets and the current strength is 1,22,624 pieces, the Defence Ministry ordered 1,86,138 bullet proof jackets. The shortage is of 45,003 pieces.

With the Indian Army fighting insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir and North-East for decades, the bulletproof jackets are essential for the troops.

Former defence minister A K Antony approved the purchase in October, 2009. However, the trials began at the Terminal Ballistic Research Laboratory, Chandigarh only on March 9 after several reprimands from the House panel.

Manohar Parrikar, Antony’s successor in the Defence Ministry, ordered an emergency purchase of 50,000 bulletproof jackets in December, 2014. Headed by senior BJP leader and former Army man Maj Gen B C Khandurai (rtd), the panel was scathing in its attack on the Defence Ministry for showing no sense of responsibility and accountability. If the ministry treated this as a priority case, the Army would have received the jackets long ago.

Though the ministry knew all along that the shelf-life of the bulletproof jackets would expire in 2016-17, it was inexplicable on the part of the Defence Ministry not to hurry up. Even after the approval from the director general, acquisition, it took more than a year for the ministry to start the trial.

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