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Experts see need for major overhaul

Several safety measures are in place, but much more needs to be done

Experts have called for a complete overhaul of the Army’s ammunition management system, in the wake of the fire accident at the Central Ammunition Depot in Pulgaon.

Responding to a question on the modernisation and automation of ammunition management, former Army Chief General V.P. Malik felt that there was a need for improvement. “The time has come for us to study the best practices of developed nations, how their armies store their ammunition, and see where we stand,” he told The Hindu.

However on human resource, he said the personnel were well trained to handle all kinds of ammunition and they were some of the best people for the job.

Gen. Malik said the Army would now carry out a technical procedure which involved ‘proving’ all the ammunition in the area, which was a long exercise that involved a close examination of all ammunition.

Modernisation plans, as far as storing of ammunition went, had been ongoing since 2000-01, Gen Malik said. “People are more careful after a series of accidents… 75-80 per cent of ammunition are now kept in specialised huts.”

However there was still some 25 per cent stored outside under tarpaulin covers or in temporary sheds. “We should make sure that there is no ammunition lying outside,” he said.

Another former Army Chief, Gen N.C. Vij, said several safety measures had been introduced in the past after a series of accidents. “All ammunition was segregated based on their volatility. Electrification was done in such a way that it did not pose a risk, grass was cut regularly and surprise visits were made to check compliance,” he said.

Deficiencies

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and Parliamentary Standing Committees had on various occasions pointed to deficiencies in ammunition management and suggested corrective measures.

In a 2015 audit report for the period 2008-09 to 2012-13, the CAG made strong observations about deficiencies. “The depots were functioning with risk of fire accident, as the fire fighting equipment was not held as per requirement/authorisation,” the CAG had observed.

The report had also noted that the movement of ammunitions suffered from inadequacies such as delay in issuing them, lack of proper accounting by depots and transportation by means other than the specified vans.

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Printable version | Feb 29, 2020 4:06:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Experts-see-need-for-major-overhaul/article14378372.ece

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