January 14, 2017
Indian soldiers breaking bread with PM Modi at Siachen. Every day a helicopter drops canned food here. Source: PIB

Indian Army has a lot of ground to cover when it comes to procurement and supply of healthy food to soldiers

THE VIDEO by BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav video on quality of food and corruption in ration supply for the soldiers has ruffled many feathers. An audit in 2010 by CAG had found similar anomalies related to the ration supply in the Indian Army. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Parliament selected this report for detailed examination and brought out 12 recommendations/observations in its 47th Report. The Ministry of Defence accepted all the recommendations for implementation, but a follow-up audit in 2015-16 found that only two of those were fully implemented. 

As a result, satisfaction level of the troops, particularly in Northern and Eastern Command, remained low. The army jawans continue to consume ration even after the expiry of original shelf life putting their health at risk. Modernisation of the food testing laboratories could not be done despite availability of funds. Army continues to procure most items of dry ration without following the recommended procurement process. Full requirement of ration was not met, which led to local purchase by the supply depots at higher rates. Recovery of this extra expenditure could not be invoked from the defaulting firms by the Ministry. 

The Director General Supplies & Transport could neither expand the vendor base nor improve the process of registration of specific vendors  resulting in inadequate competition. The lack of competition led to abnormal variations in the local market rate and the rates given by the Army.

Here are the audit findings in detail. 
Significant variations were observed between the ration quantities demanded by the Commands and the requirement worked out by DGST and then those finally accepted by the Ministry. As a result, the requirements finally accepted by the Ministry were short up to 20 per cent in 2013-14 and up to 23 per cent in 2014-15 in comparison to the projections made by the Army Headquarters.

In 2014-15 total procurement of sugar and dal exceeded the sanctioned quantity by 40 per cent and 23 per cent respectively. While the shortages in central procurement of dal and tea caused due to default of the contractors were made up through procurement at local level by the supply depots, yet recovery for extra expenditure caused was not made from the defaulting contractor resulting in resulted in an additional expenditure of Rs 1.73 crore.

Extension was granted to around 99 per cent samples sent to Composite Food Laboratories  and Food Inspection Unit, which included extension beyond three months in 176 cases. This means troops were being issued ration after the expiry of prescribed ESL. 

Modernisation of Defence Food Laboratories could not be undertaken even though funds to the extent of Rs 2.81 crore were allotted to DGST in September 2013. In August 2014, again funds of Rs 3.15 crore were allotted but the same was surrendered in March 2015 due to delay in according of approval by CFA for procurement of equipment. 

The process of procurement of fresh ration was still non-competitive. In around 66 per cent cases, procurements were made only on one or two quotations. This despite the fact that number of vendors registered for fresh items during the period ranged from 94 to141. There was no expansion in vendor base during the period under review. On the contrary, total number of vendors registered under all categories had reduced. 

The consuming units did not receive the fruits and vegetables according to the prescribed mix. The 2010 audit had found very low level of troops satisfaction regarding quantity, quality and taste of rations including low quality of meat and fresh vegetable. The troops graded the quality of ration as good or below in respect of 60 per cent and 73 per cent of the feedback reports pertaining to Eastern and Northern Command respectively, whereas in Western Command, quality of ration to the extent of 84 per cent was graded as excellent.