In an unprecedented development, the Chiefs of Army and Air Force on Wednesday appeared before the Parliament's Public Accounts Committee in connection with alleged irregularities in defence-run canteens and were told to overhaul the system which was promised.
Army Chief Gen V K Singh, Air Chief Marshal P V Naik and Naval Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma had been called by the PAC on the basis of alleged irregularities highlighted by two CAG reports.
While Singh and Naik appeared before the Committee, Verma was away on an official foreign trip and was represented by Vice Chief Vice Admiral D K Deewan.
The Army Chief first appeared individually in connection with the alleged irregularities in distribution of dry ration and then, in the afternoon, he came before the Committee again along with Naik and Deewan in connection with irregularities in the Canteen and Stores Department (CSD).
There could be another hearing in the matter when the Chiefs may be called again.
This was the first time when the Chiefs of Armed forces have appeared before a Parliamentary Committee. As per the normal practice, the Defence Secretary attends meetings of the Parliamentary Committees along with Vice Chiefs of the Services.
In the morning session, Singh gave assurances to the committee to completely overhaul the mechanism on supply of dry rations to over million soldiers posted in remote areas after the government auditor CAG revealed that stale food was being provided to them, specially at high-altitude posts like Siachen.
The PAC, chaired by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, asked the General to submit within three months clarifications sought by members on improving the supply chain management of dry rations.
"The MPs made some good suggestions. We have taken them in account," the Army chief told reporters assuring a complete overhaul of the system in six months.
Besides Singh, the top defence brass including secretary-rank officials from the minister and Quartermaster General, incharge of defence canteens appeared before the PAC.
The army officials made presentations before the members on the system of supplying dry rations -- rice, wheat, dal, sugar, tea, oil, tinned items -- to soldiers.
The CAG, in a report to Parliament in August last, had called for a complete overhaul of the existing system, ranging from computerisation and better procurement procedures to expansion in the vendor base and blacklisting of defaulting parties.