Armed forces fully equipped to deal with contingencies, says Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: The Indian armed forces are fully equipped to face any contingency, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley told the Lok Sabha today amid the ongoing border standoff with China.

Asserting that any shortage in terms of arms and ammunition would be expeditiously made up, the minister said the observations by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) about ammunition supplies was for a particular period. Last week, the CAG had slammed the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) for critical deficiency in availability of ammunition to the Army.

“The armed forces are fully equipped to face any contingency” and any shortage of ammunition would be expeditiously made up, Jaitley said during Question Hour.

The remarks come at a time when India and China have been locked in a standoff over the Doklam issue while there have also been rising terror incidents in Jammu and Kashmir. In a report, the apex auditor had also criticised the OFB for inadequate quality of ammunition supplied to the Army since March 2013.

According to the report, despite serious concerns highlighted in a high-level report on ‘Ammunition management in Army’ in 2015, no significant improvement took place in the critical deficiency in availability of ammunition and quality of ammunition supplied by the OFB.

Regarding CAG reports, Jaitley said that as per procedure, after tabling in Parliament, they go to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and if the latter makes some recommendations, then action would be taken.

“If any action is to be taken, it will be taken,” Jaitley said in response to queries on whether any action would be taken against officials following observations in the CAG report.

When a member wanted to know about the amount of ammunition required and other details, Jaitley said it is better in public interest not to make any such disclosure. Responding to queries, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre assured the House that no ordnance factory would be closed down and no one would be rendered unemployed. On strategic partnerships in the defence sector, Jaitley said it is intended to institutionalise a transparent, objective and functional mechanism to encourage broader participation of the private sector in the manufacture of defence platforms and equipment.

Besides, the government has approved a proposal for manufacturing of ammunition for the Indian Army by the Indian industry, he said. In this regard, Jaitley said Request for Proposal (RFP) under open tender enquiry was issued in March.

“Since the proposal is presently at RFP stage, grant of permission to any private company for manufacturing ammunition in partnership with foreign vendors/companies which have been blacklisted/banned for wrong doings/corrupt practices does not arise,” the minister said.

Further, Jaitley said the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP)/Defence Procurement Manual (DPM) contain provisions in standard clauses of contract for use of undue influence, including engagement of agents unauthorisedly by the seller.

“DPP/DPM also provides for execution of a pre-contract integrity pact with the objective of ensuring that the procurement process is free from any wrongful business practice,” he added.

The minister also said violation of the pact can result in calling off the negotiations, cancellation of contracts, encashment of bank guarantees and debarment from future procurement.

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