Indian Army facing an acute deficiency of ammunition and spares: Lt Gen (retd) DB Shekatkar
Lt Gen DB Shekatkar maintains that the Indian Army was facing an acute deficiency of ammunition and spares and recommended that they find ways to cut down manpower by bringing in the private sector
In a press conference led by Lt Gen DB Shekatkar, he maintained that the Indian Army was facing an acute deficiency of ammunition and spares. He also stated that almost 60-70 % of the army’s inventory is out-of-date and unserviceable due to lack of spares for repair, maintenance, and overhaul.
According to an internal audit, the Army is facing a critical shortage of artillery ammunition, tanks shells, fuses, and spares for all types of weapons. The Indian Army’s Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, which is the lifeline that supports the troops at heights above 20,000 feet and minus 50 degrees temperature in Siachen glacier – are themselves in trouble due to non-availability of spares. This is because HAL can produce only 10% of the required spare.
The Committee of Experts was mandated to scrutinise all organisations and every person paid out of the defense budget and find ways to cut down manpower by bringing in the private sector. This was the logic behind the "GOCO” (Government-Owned Contractor-Operated) scheme.
Towards this end, the Lt Gen Shekatkar Committee recommended shutting down all the eight Army base workshops (ABWs) – the jewels in the Corps of Electronic & Medical Engineers’ (EME) and Indian Army’s crown – which will cease to exist in their present form by this year-end. Though some of these establishments may be shut down permanently, the rest will be handed over– as a free gift under the government-owned contractor operated (GOCO) model.
Though MoD officials claim to be acting on the basis of the recommendations of Shekatkar committee report, the said report is not being shared with the public, resulting in doubts about the exact number of Army Base Workshops proposed to be shut down or privatized.
These are just a few symptoms of a bigger problem faced by the Indian Armed Forces. But instead of admitting the problem – the Army Base Workshops which repair, maintain and overhaul the Army’s vehicle, weapons, radars, helicopters, night-vision devices, and other electronic equipment are being ruthlessly truncated and revamped as suggested by the Lt Gen Shekatkar Committee under the "GOCO” (Government-Owned Contractor-Operated) scheme.
Subsequently 505 Army Base Workshops (Delhi), 507 Army Base Workshops (Kankinara), 509 Army Base Workshops (Agra) and 515 Army Base Workshops (Bengaluru) will be corporatized in the second phase.
Other establishments on the chopping board include two Advanced Base Workshops at Narangi (Guwahati) and Udhampur (J&K); ordinance depot in Shakurbasti (Delhi), static workshop (Delhi), Central Ordnance Depot in Chheoki (UP) and Vehicle depot in Panagarh (WB).
This was as per a MoD communique which read, “The government will provide land, infrastructure, plant and machinery, equipment system support, oversight and facilitate the contractor... The contractor operates and utilizes the facilities available, manages all types of work and is also responsible to get required licenses’, certifications and accreditations to deliver mutually agreed targets and maintains the plant machinery and services integral to the venture.”
While the Lt. Gen. Shekatkar Committee projected a saving of ₹25,000 Crore over the next five years – the Government of India found only 65 of its 188 recommendations fit to be implemented. This clearly shows how the babus in the MoD only wish to see or hear what they like and what they don’t – is not worth knowing. Another pointer towards this is how even before the Shekatkar Committee submitted its report in Dec 2016, MoD officials had already started looking for PSUs and Civilian Companies to run the Army Base Workshops.