The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) highlighted the lack of proper food and gears for the troops deployed in Siachen and Ladakh in its report tabled in Lok Sabha on Monday. The CAG audit revealed that the soldiers in these areas were forced to use old and recycled high-altitude clothing, including snow goggles and boots.
The CAG report is based on the performance audit of provisioning and procurement from 2015-16 to 2017-18. The audit watchdog also highlighted that the soldiers in these high-altitude areas had inadequate special ration, which affected their calorie intake by 82 percent.
"There were delays of up to four years in the procurement of high-altitude clothing and equipment, leading to an acute shortage of essential clothing and equipment. There was a critical shortage of snow goggles, ranging from 62% to 98%. The troops had not been issued 'multi-purpose boots' from November 2015 to September 2016, and had to resort to the recycling of available boots," the CAG said.
Shocking findings in CAG audit
The report showed its displeasure over the "inordinate delay" in the establishment of the Indian National Defence University, which was recommended by the Kargil review committee in 1999. The CAG findings have highlighted several irregularities in certain procurements which have led to a loss of Rs 25.48 crore due to delayed lease renewals for defence land.
The CAG report showed a demanding picture pertaining to the availability of important equipment and logistics the forces require to stand in subzero temperatures and treacherous terrain.
Here are some shocking findings in the CAG audit report that highlights the improper provisioning of troops in high-altitude areas ranging from 16,000 to 22,000 feet facing Pakistan and China:
- Soldiers had to use recycled multi-purpose boots to protect feet at -55 degrees Celsius due to unavailability of new stock
- There was deficiency ranging from 15 to 98 percent in 18 items of the Special Clothing and Mountaineering Equipment (SCME) such as head cap, socks, sleeping bag and face mask
- Soldiers were issued a huge quantity of life saving and essential items with expired shelf life
- Poor supplies from Ordnance Factory Dehradun led to a shortage of 750 snow goggles
- Alleged irregularities in the selection of "inferior" rucksacks that also failed in the quality checks in the later stage
- HACE items such as face mask and sleeping bags of old specifications were procured
- Inadequate special ration compromised the calorie intake of the troops by as high as 82 percent
- The pilot project to improve housing conditions of troops in high altitude areas was not successful
In response to CAG's audit, the defence ministry said that the deficiencies in high-altitude clothing and equipment will be made up in due time despite budget constraints. But MoD had said in March last year that the budgetary constraints led to the cuts in the quantity being procured.
An army officer said that things have improved since the time the audit was conducted (2015-16 to 2017-18) and that there is no lack of clothing and equipment for soldiers in areas like Siachen, TOI reported.
Indian National Defence University: Far from reality
After the Kargil war in 1999, the Kargil review committee proposed the idea of Indian National Defence University to review the situation prelude to the war and suggest measures to strengthen India's national security apparatus. But the project has now witnessed a major cost overrun from Rs 395 crore to Rs 4,007.22 crore (December 2017).