Indian soldiers deployed in the Siachen glacier-Saltoro Ridge region — the world’s highest battleground — are being fed rations unfit for human consumption, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has found.
In a blistering indictment of the army, the national auditor said in a report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday that soldiers were supplied atta, rice, dal and edible oil 28 months past their expiry date.
These soldiers, part of the Northern and Western Commands, guard the country’s troubled borders with Pakistan in freezing temperatures.
“About-to-expire food items are bought at cheaper rates by contractors and supplied to army units,” an officer explained, recalling an occasion when “brownish cheese” was served at an officer’s mess. It turned out the cheese was a year past its expiry. “A jawan told me sometimes the cheese becomes like chocolate and that’s when it’s thrown away,” the officer said.
The Army Service Corps (ASC) spends Rs 1,440 crore every year on rations.
Rations worth Rs 1.92 crore were untraceable in Northern Command as of March 2008, CAG revealed.
This stench of a ration scam the CAG report has let out isn’t fresh. “Everyone in the army knows how corrupt officers compromise on quality of rations to make a quick buck. The poor bloke on the frontline has no clue what he’s being made to eat,” said a former army commander.
The audit has also found a serious lack of competition in ration purchases.
A single vendor bagged contracts for more than 36 per cent of the purchases, the CAG discovered. It also stumbled upon cases where ration quantities received by consuming battalions did not match what was purportedly supplied to them.
“Corruption is rampant at the highest levels in the ASC. The ordinary soldier pays the price. The quality of rations is so poor, officers prefer passing it on to the domestic help," said a retired general.
Several ASC generals have faced court martial for irregularities in purchase of rations such as meat, eggs and cereals.