- The Army told the defence ministry that the rise in ammunition-related accidents, taking place once a week on an average, were causing “fatalities, injuries and damage to equipment” regularly.
- This, in turn, was “leading to the Army’s loss of confidence in most types of ammunition” being manufactured by OFB.
NEW DELHI: Shoddy manufacture of critical ammunition by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has once again come to the fore, with the Comptroller and Auditor General
TOI had reported on May 14 that the Army had sounded alarm over the unacceptably high number of accidents taking place in the field due to poor quality of ammunition being supplied for tanks, artillery, air defence and other guns by the OFB, which has 41 ordnance factories under it with an annual budget of over Rs 15,000 crore.
The Army told the defence ministry that the rise in ammunition-related accidents, taking place once a week on an average, were causing “fatalities, injuries and damage to equipment” regularly. This, in turn, was “leading to the Army’s loss of confidence in most types of ammunition” being manufactured by OFB.
Tabled in Parliament on Friday, the CAG report on the OFB’s performance for 2017-2018 painted an equally alarming picture. The Army and Navy reported at least 36 accidents from 2013-14 to 2017-18 due to “fuse-related defects/problems” in nine types of ammunition that were studied. These included 81 mm high-explosive (HE) mortar bombs, 40 mm HE rounds for L-70 air defence guns, 84 mm ‘illuminating’ munitions for rocket launchers and 125 mm HE shells for T-72 tanks, it said.
Fuses are an essential and critical part of ammunition to provide safe and reliable detonation at the desired time and place. Defective fuses can lead to bursting of barrels as well as accidental and premature explosions. Apart from “inadequate quality checks”, there were “abnormal delays” in completing such “defect investigations”, which stymied “remedial” measures by the factories concerned, the CAG said.
“Moreover, a significant quantity of the Army’s demands for some principal ammunition items remained outstanding as of March 31, 2018, thus adversely affecting its operational preparedness. The factories achieved production targets for only 49% items in 2017-18,” it said.
“OFB’s slippages in production and supply led to critical deficiency of seven types of ammunition (ranging from 32% to 74%) and five types of spare fuses (41% to 94%) in the users’ stock,” it added. The Army is the OFB’s biggest client, accounting for almost 80% of its total production worth over Rs 14,000 crore every year.
The CAG report also noted that the “very meagre” exports by OFB further decreased by 39% from Rs 22.6 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 13.9 crore in 2017-18. Incidentally, the report comes at a time when the government has prepared a draft note for the Cabinet Committee on Security for “corporatisation” of the OFB, which has around 1.45 lakh employees, to “enhance functional autonomy, efficiency and unleash new growth potential”.
The move will help increase OFB’s turnover to Rs 30,000 crore by 2024-25, enhance its exports to 25% of the turnover, and increase self-reliance in technology from the existing 20% to 75% by 2028-29, contends the CCS note.
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