NEW DELHI: The devastating fire at the army’s central ammunition depot in Pulgaon, Maharashtra, in May, which claimed 19 lives and military equipment worth Rs 8 crore, was caused by faulty ammunition. Investigations into the fire incident have revealed that in the past three years, the army has returned faulty ammunition and weaponry worth over Rs 1,300 crore to the ordinance factories.
This shocking revelation comes at a time when a latest CAG report has pointed out that the ammunition of Indian Army, the world’s third largest military, was enough only to sustain fights for 20 days.
Faulty ammunition compounds the problem of shortage of the army’s firepower. According to figures compiled by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), in the last three years, 185 types of weapons and 70 kinds of ammunition, small arms, combat vehicles and instruments were sent back to ordnance factories for rectification as these were unfit for use. Though some of the deformity comes from factories, poor handling during transportation causes faults in the ammunition, according to an MoD official.
The Army uses fresh ammunition and weapons for its operations, while old ammunition is for training purposes.
The May 31 Maharashtra ammunition depot fire raised issues of faulty ammunition. Investigation by an MoD expert committee found that defective anti-tank mines caused the fire. The report maintained that last year ammunition and weapons worth Rs 483 crore were handed back to ordnance factories, while in 2014, the figure was Rs 445 crore and in 2013, it was Rs 402 crore. The rate of returned weaponry for rectification was over 3 per cent of the total ammunition. Experts say failure of faulty ammunition or weapons during operations can result in a huge loss of human lives and tactical reverses.
Taking lessons from the Maharashtra fire, the MoD recommended various measures to ensure better quality control of ammunition and weaponry provided to armed forces.
From now onwards, an officer of the rank of Senior Administrative Grade or Judge Advocate General, has been nominated as Quality Control Officer in each ordnance factory to look after the quality area of the factory. The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has set up an independent authority to audit the existing Quality Control System with respect to input material, manufacturing process, and adherence to specified acceptance criterion etc.
At the factory level, audits are carried out regularly. A Failure Review Board has been constituted in each factory to review and analyse the causes of defects during manufacturing and final acceptance inspection and suggest remedies to eliminate recurrence of the same in future production.