Wednesday 29 June 2022
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Corruption or incompetence of Army bosses? Northern Command procured substandard food, clothing for jawans in Siachen, CAG says

The report said that unlike the Eastern Command, the Northern Command procured items through limited tendering, which impeded fair competition

Soldiers stationed in high areas like Siachen, Ladakh, Doklam are not getting adequate calories from the food supplied to them. The jawans are not getting the quality of clothes they need to wear to protect themselves from the harsh weather conditions of the place either. These serious issues have come to light from a two-year-old CAG report tabled in Sansad on 2 February.

Soldiers posted in Siachen were deprived of better clothes and equipment due to the old specification clothes and equipment, the CAG found out.

The CAG report states that the special scale of rations for soldiers in the high altitude area is determined, keeping in mind their daily energy needs. However, in lieu of the original items (basic items), optional items were authorised on a limited percentage and “cost basis”.

The calorie intake of the military teams in Siachen was reduced as expensive items were picked in the place of basic ones at the same price. The report said that the Eastern Command of the army awarded the contract through an open tender system, but the Northern Command procured it through limited tendering, which impeded fair competition.

According to the CAG report, the Ministry of Defence set up an Empowered Committee in 2007 to expedite the purchase of clothing items for soldiers stationed in the high altitude areas like Siachen to purchase clothes to suit their needs. But despite this, there was a delay of up to four years.

There was a delay also in getting the goods from the Ordination Factory under the Ministry of Defence. Due to the delay in the procurement process and in getting the goods even after the contract, the soldiers stationed there had to face a huge shortage of essential clothes and equipment.

Soldiers’ health affected in Siachen

The Northern Command purchased face masks, jackets and sleeping bags based on old specifications, which deprived the soldiers of better products. It affected the soldiers’ health and hygiene, aggravated further by delays in procurement procedures.

The CAG report said that due to lack of research and development in the defence lab and failure in indigenisation, the command depended on imported goods. According to the report, the was implemented in an ad hoc manner to improve the housing conditions of the soldiers living at high altitudes.

The command did not seek the permission of the competent authority, said the CAG report, adding that the pilot for Siachen was implemented phase-wise. As a result, it said, the pilot project was not successful even after the government spent Rs 274 crore on it, the report said.

According to the report, a proper assessment of needs does not precede the annual plans and work in this section of the Indian Army. There is too much delay in the completion of any work. Even after the physical completion, it took more than a year to hand over the assets to the unit. Soldiers were thus deprived of facilities in a very challenging climate condition.

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