Unfriendly fire
THE WEEK|October 25, 2020
Unfriendly fire
Ordnance factories say the Army’s complaint against the quality of their ammunition is a ploy to promote privatisation
PRADIP R. SAGAR

THE INDIAN ARMY has deployed its T-90 and T-72 battle tanks in the Chumar-Demchok area in eastern Ladakh to deter any misadventure by Chinese troops. At 15,000 feet, it is possibly the world’s highest battlefield for tanks. But what perhaps worries the Indian soldiers more than the altitude and the threat from China could be the quality of their ammunition. According to a report prepared by the Army, faulty ammunition supplied by ordnance factories have caused more than 400 accidents in the past six years, resulting in 27 deaths and 159 injuries.

“On an average, one accident takes place every week,” said the report, which also revealed that the Army has suffered a loss of ₹960 crore since 2014 on account of faulty ammunition. It said the Army could have purchased around hundred 155mm artillery guns with the money it lost. Former Army chief General (retd) V.P. Malik flagged the issue as a serious one. “It directly affects the morale of the troops and their confidence in their weapon systems,” he said.

The ordnance factory board (OFB) refuted the allegations and said only 2 per cent of the accidents were caused by faulty ammunition. It blamed poor gun maintenance and faulty firing drills for the alarming numbers. The board also pointed out that between 2011 and 2018, more than 125 accidents were caused by ammunition procured from foreign and domestic sources other than the OFB. Responding to the Army’s view that it could have bought a hundred artillery guns with the money it lost, the OFB referred to the Army’s controversial purchase of ammunition from Russia during the Kargil war. By the same logic, it said, the “faulty Krasnopol ammunition imported from Russia during the Kargil war, amounting to ₹522.44 crore, could have financed another 55 artillery guns”.

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October 25, 2020