After terror attacks in Punjab, Army uniforms once sold openly now disappear

In the roadside markets of Old City in Chaura Bazaar, however, there are multiple ‘army and military stores’ which sell army uniforms.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana | Published: January 9, 2016 11:28 am
Fabric material similar to military fatigues being sold in Jalandhar Cantonment.  Express Fabric material similar to military fatigues being sold in Jalandhar Cantonment. Express

Two back-to-back attacks in Punjab by terrorists wearing army fatigues prompted the Indian Army to issue an appeal Friday to civilians to avoid wearing “army-pattern” dresses and shopkeepers to refrain from selling combat clothes.

In the roadside markets of Old City in Chaura Bazaar of Ludhiana, however, there are multiple ‘army and military stores’ which sell army uniforms. They get their stock from retired soldiers or even those in service.

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“Even discarded uniforms, brought in by ragpickers, land here,” said a dealer who claims his wares come from the bazaars of even bigger cities like Delhi and Lucknow.

Also known as kabaaria bazaar (scrap market), the uniforms, including shoes, bags, tents, socks and caps, were sold openly in the market opposite Ludhiana railway station just a few days before the Pathankot attack happened.

“If someone brings a uniform which is in good condition, we buy it for Rs 300 to Rs 500 and sell it for Rs 700 to Rs 900,” said a shopkeeper. “Mostly jawans from lower ranks who accumulate 15-20 sets of uniforms during period in service sell them to us.”

“Uniforms are a source of pride for the soldier, we know that,” he added. “But the problem is that the uniforms issued by the government to the soldier are usually do not fit them. What is the point of soldiers wearing uniforms that makes it hard for them to move? In the open market, they get uniforms stitched and they are better with longer durability.”

“But since the Pathankot attacks, we are not selling or re-selling any more uniforms,” said the shopkeeper.

A shopkeeper from the Railway Station road said uniforms can be found not just here but even close to the cantonment areas of Pathankot, Ambala, Jalandhar and Ferozepur.

“Retired soldiers who are from poor family background keep one set for remembrance and personal use after retirement but sell the rest. The original ones , issued to them by government, get them a good price,” a shopkeeper from Iqbal Ganj market said.

It is not just soldiers who get their uniforms stitched from outside their stations but army officers, too.

“Soldiers are issued uniforms once a year only while officers have to get them stitched on their own. The unit tailors and stores get stock from authorised suppliers but soldiers have to get them stitched from outside. They spend from their own pockets and officers also do the same. Fabric used to stitch uniforms is also available with tailors in the open market,” said a senior army officer from Dholewal military complex of Ludhiana.

“Moreover, winters uniforms comes to us once in three years,” he added. “So if the uniform is worn out or does not arrive on time, we get it from open markets. These days’ windcheaters of green military shade (plain) from China have flooded the markets. the common man can easily mistake this for our uniforms.”

Arun Jain, an authorised supplier of uniforms from Ludhiana, explains how they spot a fake from the original uniform.

“You mush check the inner side of the button lines. If it has the name of the authorised company which supplies the fabric, it means they are legal. Else, they have been stitched illegally. We usually ask our army clients a few questions who come to buy uniforms apart from checking their ID cards and clicking a photograph,” he said. “But of course, this can’t be said of every body.”

A few days after the Pathankot attack, army uniforms that were on display outside many of the ‘military’ shops were replaced by colourful readymade garments.

The owners, when questioned by The Indian Express, denied that they dealt in army uniforms. “The word military is attached to our shop’s name since years. We have nothing to do with army stuff,” said owner of Indian Army Store.

Major SS Aulakh, general secretary ex-servicemen welfare society, said, “It is a crime to resell uniforms and other accessories issued to us by the government. You do not know where your uniform travels once sold in market. As per service rules, the government does not take our uniforms back from us. But now they may revisit this policy. This is dangerous.”

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  1. A
    Jan 9, 2016 at 10:27 am
    Do not accept that retired army personnel sell their uniforms. This is a well oiled big market, from where have the ROLLS of new cloth come ?? Totally ban the business Pan India and ensure strict discipline.
    1. H
      Jan 9, 2016 at 6:34 am
      Open of Army Like Uniform should be banned. Army Uniforms should be handover back to Govt .on retirement to dispose it off
      1. R
        Jan 11, 2016 at 8:47 am
        Like in the US - military uniforms should be sched BY the Army and provided to the soldiers in standard sizes. Further, torn or worn out uniforms should be returned for proper disposal - only then should new uniform be given . Further apart from dress uniform - work/utility uniform should not be retained by the soldier after service.
        1. J
          Jan 9, 2016 at 4:43 pm
          It is matter of serious concern and it is surprising how this was totally missed by the security authorities all these years. To day you can find the army uniforms sold in countries most cantomets all over and for example come to Lal bazaar market in secunderabad you will find every thing a soldier wants. Did not the army authorities understand the fundamental idea that these clothes or uniforms can be used by forces enemical to the country and create havoc as ordinary people cannot distinguish who is a real soldier and who is fake and become a sitting duck in case of a shoot out or the uniforms used in robbery ,murder,rape etc and create bad name to army and possibly riots. The of cloth materials or garments made of materials meant for defence forces and also the police forces should be totally banned by an ordinance immediately. There cannot be two opinions on county's security. All uniforms give to the personnel should be accounted for and asked to be returned on issuing new pairs. The correct fitment of each person should be ensured by authorities and any missing uniform has to be accounted by the recipient and heavy fine to be levied as deterrent. The production of security related cloth /garments/ uniforms has to be centralised by defence departent and should be banned for out side civilian use forth with and any one violating it to be punished with imprisonment and non bailable.