A Parliamentary Committee has expressed "dismay" over the country not having the capacity to manufacture special clothing and boots for defence personnel posted in Siachen Glacier, though it can successfully launch sophisticated satellites, produce robust missiles and tanks.
"The committee is dismayed to learn that a country which is capable of successfully launching satellites, manufacturing missiles, tanks and other state-of-the-art defence equipment is still struggling with the problem of narrow vendor base in procurement of special clothing and mountaineering equipment and boots," the Public Accounts Committee said in its latest report tabled in Parliament on Thursday.
Of the 55 items authorised for personnel in world's highest battle field Siachen, Kargil and Sikkim, the country has been importing 19 critical items such as down feather jackets, trousers, sleeping bags, multipurpose boots, woollen socks, rucksacks were being imported "as no indigenous source has emerged" for over two decades now.
Emphasising the need to ensure creation of domestic capabilities to produce essential equipment, the committee headed by BJP leader Gopinath Munde said it needed to be strengthened, at least in the public sector, if the private sector was not forthcoming ostensibly due to lack of economic viability.
"The defence of a nation is a non-negotiable national imperative and under no circumstances can commercial and economic considerations be allowed to compromise the nation’s foremost priority. Immediate action be initiated in this regard under intimation to the committee," it said.
Noting that the Army had not formulated the qualitative requirements for the special clothing and mountaineering equipment so far, the committee said these items were being "procured for the last 20 years."
"Siachen is the world's highest battle ground and even foreign suppliers are at times unable to produce equipment with the requisite features for the security, comfort and operational efficiency of our jawans," it noted with concern.
The committee said the PSUs, DRDO and ordnance factories could be encouraged to manufacture these items even if there is no profit to be made on some of them.
Of the 10 contracts between 2002 and 2006 for special clothing worth Rs 48.88 crore, 59 per cent worth Rs 28.81 crore were rejected either at the receipt inspection stage or by the end users.
"The whole approach towards procurement of such supplies appears casual so that neither quality nor timely availability of critical items could be ensured, thereby compromising safety as well as comfort of the troops deployed in harsh climatic conditions," it added.
The committee also called for fixing responsibility of officials responsible for flaws in procurement procedures, technical evaluations and rejection of ordered clothing and equipment.