Army will finalise the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for disposal of defective ammunition within a fixed timeframe, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar told Lok Sabha on Friday against the backdrop of a fire at an ammunition depot in Maharashtra that killed 19 people.
He said the government has approved various measures based on the recommendations by the Court of Inquiry on the fire incident at Central Ammunition Depot (COD), Pulgaon, Maharashtra on May 31 and subsequent deliberations with stakeholders.
“Ammunition storage is inherently a risky proposition,” Parrikar said, adding that risks are minimised by adapting prescribed storage norms.
During Question Hour, the Minister said the Army Headquarters in consultation with all stakeholders would finalise the SOPs for “disposal of defective ammunition in fixed time frame and fixing up responsibility for defect and regularisation of loss”.
Besides, the Department of Defence Production (DDP), after consulting stakeholders, would prepare a SOP for handholding of production agency by the designer till production stabilises.
Parrikar also said the Army Headquarters would take up “disposal of all defective segregated mines for exudation of TNT, held at various locations” while the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) would replace or repair defective ammunition within three months.
“Army Headquarters will review the security (including surveillance) and fire safety arrangements at all ammunition depots,” he added.
Responding to supplementary questions about the Pulgaon incident, Parrikar said basically it was a real accident and “no sabotage angle has been brought out”.
In the Pulgaon incident, there were 19 fatal and 17 non-fatal casualties while total loss of equipment and stores as per preliminary estimation is around Rs 7.90 crore, he noted.
Responding to queries about people living nearby ammunition depots and their safety, Parrikar said some solutions are being looked at to address the issues.
A committee is taking a review of the distance norms with regard to ammunition depots and it is at an advanced stage, he added.
There is Outer Safety Distance (OSD) requirement with respect to ammunition depots.
Besides, the possibility of upgrading the storage facilities, which would require a lot of money, is being looked at, the Defence Minister said.
Noting that many ammunition depots were set up many years ago when there was hardly any population nearby the sites, Parrikar said steps would be taken to reduce hardships of people would be taken.