Why is India buying anti-mine boots that don’t protect?

Despite heavy sales pitches by the Canadian and UK blast-boots vendors, the humanitarian demining industry has rejected them in the light of well documented independent scientific evidence

Ashutosh Sharma

General Officer Commanding of the Army's Jammu-based XVI Corps Lt. General Paramjit Singh announced last month that the Army had procured special anti-mine boots for troops deployed along the Line of Control (LoC).

As part of the counter-infiltration grid, the soldiers have to get into forward areas for domination and some-times even undertake hot pursuit of the militants and subversive elements, he told a news agency PTI.

In the face of persistent denial by the Army that landmines are not in use and that landmine blasts do not occur, the procurement of anti-landmine boots raises doubts if the ‘unwarranted’ boots are part of a money-making exercise.

Experts, however, point out that even deminers don’t prefer to wear the “mine-proof boots” for practical reasons. Maintaining that the boots make the wearer walk like a duck, they ridiculed the argument that it would help soldiers chase militants in the mine-infested areas.

The humanitarian demining industry, according to them, despite heavy sales pitches by Canadian and UK blast-boot vendors, have rejected the boots in the light of well documented independent scientific evidence.

“Mine Proof Boots! Ah yes...the dream of walking through a mine field unharmed, is just that, a dream...! The name to start off with, is mis-leading. There is no such thing as 'mine proof', since mines come in different shapes and sizes,” commented a Geneva based activist working for elimination of landmines.

He added: “Any mine triggered by trip wires on the ground would not be affected by a boot of any kind. All such boots use some type of absorbent material on the bottom. For very low explosive content mines, they may decrease the lacerations to the foot. However, the blast will still unsettle and fling the wearer some distance, and they may land on other mines.”

International Mine Action Standards conclusively state that for now, there is a danger that blast-resistant footwear offer “false security.” According to them, “The effectiveness and operational benefits of mine boots is still a contentious issue… only one independent trial (U.S. State Department sponsored) has been conducted, which identified that … the benefits are unproven.”

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