NEW DELHI: There has been an acute shortage of high altitude clothing including snow goggles and boots for troops deployed in Siachen and Ladakh, forcing them to procure old and recycled versions, the Comptroller and Auditor General said, adding that there was also inadequate special ration for these soldiers, affecting their calorie intake by 82 percent.
The CAG in a report tabled in Lok Sabha explained that a limited budget constrained the procurement of a certain type of high altitud areas was not successful. It also said that it took more than a year for the formations to hand over the assets to the units. This deprived the units of resources that were scant in the challenging climatic conditions. These details are based on a CAG audit from 2015-16 to 2017-18.
The audit found that there was a deficiency of 24 to 100 percent and 41 to 100 percent in Extreme Cold Clothing and Equipment (ECC&E) at two depots, where the Northern Command’s Army Headquarters Reserve of such items is stocked. The Army Headquarters reserve caters for contingencies, dual task formations for both Pakistan and China fronts and movement of additional troops. Ladakh comes under the Northern Command. The ECC&E, consisting of boots, coats, goggles and sleeping bags, etc, is a type of high altitude clothing that is issued to troops deployed above 9,000 feet in Eastern Command and above 6,000 in other commands.
The defence ministry in its reply to the CAG in March last year explained that “budgetary constraints led to cuts in the quantity being procured”. It also said that the increase in the authorisation of the ECC&E sets by 64,131 in 2017 led to deficiency in the Army Headquarters reserve.
The audit also found significant deficiencies in the ECC&E items at two depots under Eastern Command. The defence ministry explained to the CAG that the deficiencies were in those items whose procurements were delayed.
There was also a deficiency ranging from 15 to 98 percent in 18 items of the Special Clothing and Mountaineering Equipment (SCME) for very high altitude areas such as Siachen. These included items such as head cap, socks, sleeping bag and face mask. “A huge quantity of life saving and essential items…with expired shelf life were issued,” the CAG said.
HACE items such as face mask and sleeping bags of old specifications were procured. “Due to delays in procurement of boot multipurpose, users were supplied with recycled boots,” it said.
On special ration the CAG said, “substitutes in lieu of scaled items were authorised on cost to cost basis, which resulted in supply of reduced quantity of substitutes. This compromised the calorie intake of the troops by as high as 82 per cent.”