Updated: August 7, 2021 8:38:50 am
IN OCTOBER last year, the Defence Ministry had objected to a visit by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to Leh to study the working condition of soldiers deployed in forward locations in the high altitude areas. Ten months later, the PAC headed by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury was on Friday given the go ahead to visit Leh.
The panel will undertake a four-day visit to Kashmir from August 14 to 17 and, interestingly, plans to celebrate Independence Day by unfurling the national flag in Dras. The Kargil War Memorial is situated at “Ground Zero” location in Dras.
What is also interesting is that a parliamentary committee headed by a Congress MP has been given permission to visit Kashmir at a time when another parliamentary panel – the IT standing committee – headed by another Congress member, Shashi Tharoor, is in news because of a showdown between ruling and opposition members.
The PAC wanted to visit Leh in November last year since it was examining a CAG report, which said that the troops stationed in areas such as Siachen and Ladakh faced acute shortage of high-altitude clothing and equipment, including snow goggles, because of procurement delays. But the Defence Ministry had then objected, saying “it may not be advisable” for the MPs to visit, given the standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control.
The visit was cancelled despite the Speaker’s clearance.
According to the travel plan approved by Speaker Om Birla now, the PAC members will reach Srinagar on August 14 and take a helicopter to Dras the next day. They will visit the Sandoh battalion and hold informal discussions with Army personnel on provisioning, procurement and issue of high altitude clothing, equipment, ration and housing based on the CAG report.
They will also visit Army establishments there.
The PAC members will travel to Leh on August 16 and August 17, where they will visit the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research to understand development of food items for troops located in high-altitude areas.
The clearance for the PAC to visit Leh came on a day the government announced that India and China have carried out a disengagement process in eastern Ladakh’s Gogra.