The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has come down heavily on the Defence Ministry for the delays of up to four years in the procurement of high-altitude clothing and equipment for Indian troops in areas like Siachen and Ladakh to enable them to withstand the inclement weather and ailments caused from extreme cold weather conditions.
There was a critical shortage of snow goggles ranging from 62 per cent to 98 per cent. The troops were not issued ‘multi-purpose boots’ from November 2015-September 2016 forcing them to resort to recycling of available boots, it said in its report on the working of the Defence Ministry tabled in Parliament.
The CAG said old versions of items such as face mask, jacket, and sleeping bags were procured, depriving the troops from the benefits of using improved products. Lack of research and development at defence laboratories led to continued dependence on imports, it added.
The report noted that special scales of rations were authorised to the troops to meet their daily energy requirements. However, substitutes in lieu of scaled items were authorised on ‘cost to cost’ basis which resulted in supply of reduced quantity of substitutes. This compromised the calorie intake of troops by as high as 82 per cent.
At the Leh station in one instance, it was noticed that the special ration items were shown as issued to troops for consumption without their actual receipt. Handing over assets created under the pilot project to the units got delayed much beyond the stipulated time frame, depriving users of resources which were already scant in challenging climatic conditions. There were discrepancies between the assets shown in Numerical Asset Register and assets on the ground.
The CAG said the project for improvement in housing conditions of troops in high-altitude areas was executed in an ad-hoc manner. In the first two phases of the pilot project, extensive summer/winter trials were conducted. The third phase constituted a confirmatory trial, at a cost of Rs`63.65 crore. This was avoidable, since the first two phases were exhaustive. Further, the sanction by the competent authority for the main project was not obtained.
The CAG’s audit report also noted that the Indian National Defence University, whose setting up by the Kargil Review Committee that went into security lapses which resulted in Pakistani army regulars and terrorists taking commanding positions on the heights of the mountains in Kashmir’s Kargil region, had not yet been established. This was despite the government giving in principle approval in May 2010 for the university to address deficiencies in India’s security management system. The project whose cost was Rs 395 crore in 2010 had escalated to Rs 4,007.22 crore in December 2017, it noted.