The “critical” shortage of ammunition in the army, pointed out in the CAG report in May, has been overcome to a significant extent, Defence Ministry and army officials have told the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC). “The criticality has been met by a two-pronged approach: asking Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) to produce well in time, and by progressing the import cases faster . It has been a high priority area for the Defence Minister (Manohar Parrikar),” said a senior military official.
The ministry and army officials deposed before the PAC on June 14. The PAC, which examines the CAG audit report after it is laid in Parliament, comprises 22 MPs and is currently headed by Congress MP Prof K V Thomas.
When the army does not have enough ammunition to sustain even 10 days of intense war, the situation is considered “critical”. CAG had warned that as of March 2013, half of the 170 types of ammunition with the army would not last 10 days of war.
As per Defence Ministry’s 1979 policy (revised in 2010 with no substantial change), army is supposed to maintain its ammunition reserves for 40 days of intense war. This quantity is called War Wastage Reserve. After the Kargil War, the army came up with a policy to hold ammunition for at least 20 days of intense war, calling it ‘Bottom Line’ or ‘Minimum Acceptable Risk Level’.
CAG had also said 74 per cent — 125 out of the 170 types of ammunition — were below the Bottom Line holding. As per the report, OFB had failed to supply the army with the targeted quantity, leading to supply shortfalls in 73 per cent of ammunition types.
Sources said the quantity of ammunition procured by the army in 2014-15 is worth around Rs 900 crore more than the average quantity purchased in earlier years. Barring one item, the army is confident of overcoming “critical” level for all types of ammunition by 2016. In May, Parrikar had assured, “We will overcome the shortfall within one and half years. The gap has been filled 50 per cent and process of remaining 50 per cent is underway.”