The terrorists who attacked the Air Force station in Pathankot were dressed in Army fatigues. On Monday, amid conflicting reports of the operation to flush out the terrorists, HT found that army fatigues and military accessories were easy to procure in the civil markets of cantonments in the border towns of Rajasthan.
In Jodhpur, anyone can purchase cloth for military uniform and other accessories from Sardar Market and the Defence Colony market.
The shopkeepers did not ask any information from the customer as the army and air force do not have any law which can check or prevent the sale of military uniforms in the open market.
In Hanumangarh and Sriganganagar districts, shops and stores near army cantonments and the Indian Air Force (IAF) base openly sell uniforms and accessories used by defence personnel.
“We check identity of the buyer if he is buying the full uniform but there is no check on people buying boots, jackets and bed rolls,” said Lakhmeer Singh, who has a store in Bikaner.
Defence spokesperson Lt Col Manish Ojha admitted that the sale of these items in the open market needs to be checked but pointed out that the army has no legal right to do so.
Senior army officials, who did not wish to be named, said that the issue was brought up during civil-military liaison meetings and the police was requested to check the misuse of military uniforms.
The sale of army fatigues is nothing new in this part of the country as many locals claimed that it is a thriving trade in places especially where army cantonments are located. To meet the clothing requirements of armed forces, the Ordnance Clothing Factory at Avadi and Shahjahanpur stitch uniforms for soldiers and officers.
Bikaner range inspector general of police Girraj Meena, who is in charge of the police in four districts — Bikaner, Churu, Hanumangarh and Sriganganagar — cited lack of rules for doing that. “We also purchase our uniforms from the open market. It is difficult to check the sale of army uniforms as I am not aware of any rule which allow us to do so,” he said.
Army sources said that defence personnel are supplied uniform and accessories after a decided period of time, as per the supply chain.
However, army personnel sometimes purchase these items from the market if they require them before their scheduled supply is due or if there’s a delay in supply.
A police officer said civil transport, in certain areas, procure the cloth used for the uniform as its durability and low price makes it ideal for seat covers, adding that under such a situation, it becomes difficult for the police to check every purchase.