The government is set to shell out Rs 1,000 crore to provide paramilitary forces with night vision devices, even though they are of dubious quality and the project patron has been arrested for corruption.
The night vision telescopic sights are to be mounted on INSAS 5.56 mm rifles and LMGs - mainstay weapons employed in fighting insurgents in Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast and Maoist-affected areas.
The home ministry has indicated its intent to buy 32,766 pieces of the equipment by March 2011 at more than Rs 3 lakh apiece.
Touted to have a shelf life of 10 years, about 3,000 pieces of this equipment have been allotted to various forces. Of which, over 400 pieces are already defunct. The BSF has 170 such pieces, just two-and-a-half years of their being put into service.
Director-level home ministry official RS Sharma - who pushed the project - was arrested in April on corruption charges in procuring 59,000 bulletproof jackets for the paramilitary.
The jackets came under the scanner after Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare, who was wearing one, fell to bullets fired during the 26/11 attacks.
"These devices are being literally forced down our throats and we know for a fact that they are faulty. For instance, they are not very compatible to be mounted of the guns that we use. The device when mounted on the INSAS rifle comes in the way of the sight," said a source.
The tender for the night vision equipment was allegedly supplied on patently false claims of technology transfers by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), a PSU. Under the garb of indigenisation, the single vendor contract was given to BEL.
The device has also not been cleared after a rigorous testing. The only trial evaluation, on June 22-23, 2009, at the BSF Range in Gurgaon barely met the minimum requirements.