Frankly speaking, I do not know if the BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav has an axe to grind. I also don’t know if he is telling the truth. I do not know where is he posted or if conditions are what he says it is like.
But I know that irregularities in ration procurement for the armed forces has not been too uncommon, with the law catching up with at least a couple of officers.
|BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav. (Photo: Facebook)|
Two major scams that rocked the defence ministry:
Ration supplies scam
A case of embezzlement surfaced in procurement of rations for J&K army personnel stationed in Siachen and other high altitude areas in 2004. The then director general of supplies and transport, lieutenant-general SK Sahni, was found guilty in the case and sentenced to jail for three years’ rigorous imprisonment by a court martial in 2011.
He had retired in 2006.
He was also indicted by a report of the Controller of Auditor General (CAG) which revealed that soldiers had been given wheat, rice, pulses and edible oil that was well past their expiry date.
Sahni was the senior-most army officer, serving or retired, to face such disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act.
Frozen meat scam
Another Army Service Corps top officer, lieutenant-general SK Dahiya, was indicted in a separate case involving irregularities in the procurement of frozen meat and dry ration for troops posted in Ladakh in early 2007. Dahiya has now retired from service, though he was awarded a recordable censure by the Northern Army commander for the offences.
Besides, the 2010 CAG report had painted a dismal picture of the Army's procurement and supply of dry rations (rice, wheat, dal, sugar, tea, oil, tinned items) and fresh rations (vegetables, fruit, meat, milk), undertaken at an annual cost of Rs 1,440 crore.
Noting that the satisfaction levels of troops about quantity, quality and taste of rations was "very low", the CAG called for a complete overhaul of the existing system, ranging from computerisation and better procurement procedures to expansion in the vendor base and blacklisting of defaulting parties.
The CAG had also slammed the Army Service Corps (ASC) and Army Purchase Organisation for substandard procurement.
The procurement of rations is done through tenders (inviting bids). Now, the tender system has inherent probability of underhand dealings. The question is why should we float a tender for articles and then judge their quality?
Any tender process implies that the cheapest amongst the best gets the nod. Is it really necessary? Simply getting the best quality food (for our defence forces) should solve this issue.
If a simple quality control and grading test replace the tender process, it would be a win-win situation on all sides. Although there are a few issues involved in sending fresh produce to the forces in remote locations, it is certainly not an impossible task with superior grade canned products and preserving techniques available off the shelves.
A look at the ration supplied to international fighting forces can give some real food for thought to the government.