Indian soldiers are the prime guardians of our national integrity and sovereignty. They are widely respected for their valour, sense of duty, discipline, and unconditional patriotic values. From guarding the world’s highest battlefield in Siachen, to facing hostile environment at Indo-Pak and Indo-China borders, they have locked horns with intruding enemy forces to ensure a safe and secure India for all of us.
A modular bullet-proof jacket. steeldefender
However, there is one thing that is still a distant dream for many of them: bullet-proof jackets.
Individual pieces comprising the Modular Tactical Vest worn by U.S. Marines.en.wikipedia
The Army is yet to get “light-weight modular jackets” almost a decade after it first demanded them, and six years after the proposal was cleared by the government.
The modular jackets are good in the sense that parts of it can be detached and attached depending on operational needs.
A soldier wearing modular bullet-proof jacket. en.wikipedia
Even though the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by then defence minister AK Antony cleared the purchase of 1.86 lakh bullet-proof jackets for the Indian Army in October 2009, the manufacturers submitted their techno-commercial bids only by 2013.
Indian soldiers. defenceforumindia
These new jackets, along with helmets were meant to protect the head, neck and groin of the soldiers.
Weighing less than 4 kg, these jackets were also supposed to provide better mobility to soldiers. These will also come with a trauma pad with all-around soft armour plate for “low threat” missions. For “high threat” missions, the jackets were to weigh up to 11.5 kg with hard armour plates.
Indian soldiers in action. defenceforumindia
All these 1.86 lakh jackets, each costing around Rs 50,000, were to be provided by 2012. Reports suggest that the jackets offered by six vendors – SM Group, Indian Armour, Shri Lakshmi Defence Solutions, Tata Advanced Materials and MKU – have not met the technical parameters or GSQRs (general staff qualitative requirements) laid down by the Army.
The current jackets worn by Indian Army soldiers are ill-fitted and heavy. They weigh over 10 kg and are at least 15 years old.
The gear containing ballistic helmet with communication gear, night vision goggles, and modular bullet proof vest.defenceforumindia
According to media reports,
soldiers of the Rashtriya Rifles and HQ 16 Corps have complained of heavy jackets that make their mobility limited. Despite this, the authorities have not taken any action in this regard.
According to a Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence report, nearly 3.5 lakh jawans don’t have access to bullet proof jackets. This means that those protecting our borders are without something that protects them.
Experts say it would be wise to be pragmatic while formulating the specifications, rather than blaming the ‘convoluted’ procurement procedures and ‘politico-bureaucratic’ apathy for slow pace of army’s modernization.
The saga of procuring bullet-proof jackets is continuing for so long without any resolution. Clearly, in decisions related to the lives of our precious soldiers, speedy implementation is a moral imperative. Such a decision cannot be stalled by a new layer of indecision. Taking more than a decade for the government to equip our soldiers with something as basic as a bullet-proof jacket clearly shows the callousness. Clearly, the time is right for the government to speed up the process for procuring bullet-proof jackets.