The plight of Indian soldiers facing bullets from terrorists is worrisome if the lethargic pace of procuring bullet proof jackets (BPJs) is any indication. They have just 5,000 BPJs, as against 3,53,765 that was approved in 2009 for buying.
The first lot of 5,000 BPJs reached last month as part of an indent for 50,000 sets placed in March 2016.
In a reply to the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar made some startling revelations about the state of affairs with regard to procuring BPJs that are crucial to protect lives of soldiers fighting terrorists, especially in Jammu and Kashmir.
"The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) in October, 2009 for procurement of 3,53,765 Bullet Proof Jackets (BPJs), including quantity 1,86,138 to be procured in the 11th Army Plan.
"The Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued to 36 vendors on 3.3.2011, but had to be retracted on 8.12.2011 to address issues in respect of conduct of trials," Parrikar said in his written reply to BJP MP Dilipbhai Pandya in Rajya Sabha.
The process was again initiated in December 2012 with 39 vendors but met with the same fate since the vendors for trials were not found to be "compliant with the RFP parameters."
In April this year, the ministry issued a fresh RFP and the technical evaluation of the offers (by the vendors) is yet to evaluated.
As a stop-gap arrangement, the ministry decided to buy 50,000 BPJs in March this year.
Defence imports spike
In the first seven months of 2016-17, India signed 15 contracts worth Rs 71,953 crore with foreign suppliers that include those in France, Russia, Israel, Germany, the US and the UK for procuring various equipment such as aircraft, missiles and ammunition.
This is much higher from Rs 29,171 crore worth contracts signed in 2015-16, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre said in a written reply to Vayalar Ravi (Congress) in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
Trends in Indian defence production
A defence ministry update released in July this year said that India signed 110 defence contracts valued at Rs 1,13,995 crore.
The Modi government has been encouraging domestic manufacturing of defence equipment as part of its "Make in India" initiative. During 2015-16, 75 industrial licenses were issued to Indian companies, as against 44 in the preceding fiscal. The total number of such licenses stood at 333 as of March 31, 2016.
Simultaneously, India has stepped up its defence exports to Rs 2,014 crore in 2015-16 from Rs 1,682 crore in 2014-15, while the combined value of production at ordnance factory boards (OFBs) and defence public sector undertakings rose to Rs 51,351 crore in 2015-16 from Rs 46,400 crore in the preceding fiscal.