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Bulletproof jackets still scarce
17 Months After 26/11, Over 40% Shortage Of Vests For Paramilitary Forces
Mumbai: Ever since Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare was killed in the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, no other issue has caught the attention of the public and policy makers more than the lack of proper bulletproof (BP) jackets for our security personnel. But one-and-a-half years after the attack, India’s paramilitary forces continue to face a shortage of over 40% of their BP jacket requirements.
The largest shortfall in terms of numbers — or 40,000 jackets — is faced by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), at the forefront of the fight against Maoist violence. Union ministry of home affairs figures show that even the elite NSG is functioning with less than half the BP jackets than it is authorised to hold. In fact, none of the seven paramilitary forces have a full quota of these armoured vests.
The main reason for the shortfall of BP jackets is the administrative mess involving a tender for their purchase being initiated in July 2009 but no finalisation occurring till April this year. The process was delayed because testing standards were allegedly compromised by the chief scientist of Terminal Ballistic Research Laboratory (TBRL) at Chandigarh. The TBRL was conducting tests to determine the quality of BP jackets offered by various sellers, but once doubts over integrity surfaced in 2009, the whole testing process had to be started again.
In the last few decades, India’s various paramilitary forces have been engaged in war-like scenarios where they find themselves battling heavily armed adversaries. Thus it became imperative to equip the men with battle-ready equipment of which BP jackets are a critical component. The CISF, which is commonly seen guarding airports, lacks a whopping 86% of the jackets it needs. MHA sources said that efforts were on to procure jackets on war footing.