Soldiers deployed in high-altitude areas such as Siachen and Ladakh lack sufficient essential gear, clothing and rations, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India told Parliament on Monday.
During the audit period of 2015-’16 to 2017-’18, troops had to use old items instead of being given new improved ones, while lack of special rations compromised their calorie intake by as high as 82%, the auditor found. Procurement of high-altitude clothing and equipment was delayed by up to four years, leading to acute shortage of such items, the audit report said.
A “critical shortage” of between 62% to 98% was reported in snow goggles. “The troops were not issued multi-purpose boots from November 2015 to September 2016 and had to resort to recycling of available boots,” the report that was tabled in Parliament on Monday said.
“Further, old versions of items such as face mask, jacket and sleeping bags were procured which deprived the troops from the benefits of using improved products. Lack of research and development by defence laboratory led to continued dependence on import.”
In the case of ration, “substitutes in lieu of scaled items were authorised on ‘cost-to-cost’ basis, which resulted in supply of reduced quantity of substitutes”, the report said. “At Leh station in one instance it was noticed that the special ration items were shown as issued to troops for consumption without their actual receipt,” it said.
On housing, the report said that a project for improvement in housing conditions in high-altitude area was executed in “an ad hoc manner”. “In the first two phases of pilot project extensive summer/winter trials were conducted,” the CAG report said. “The third phase constituted confirmatory trial, at a cost of Rs 63.65 crore. This was avoidable, since the first two phases were exhaustive.”
“Further, the sanction by the competent authority for the main project was not obtained,” the report added. “Handing over assets created under pilot project to the units got delayed much beyond stipulated time frame, depriving users of resources which were already scant in challenging climatic conditions. There were discrepancies between the assets shown in Numerical Asset Register and assets on the ground.”
However, senior Army officials told Hindustan Times that the report was dated and claimed things had improved in the last two years.