Oct 25, 2008

India - Troops in Siachen Glacier issued torn clothing

NEW DELHI: Troops posted at the Siachen Glacier, once known as the world's highest and coldest battlefield where the weather claims more lives than combat, have been issued "partly torn" and recycled special clothing for the winters due to its untimely procurement, a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report has revealed.

"Army Head Quarters failed to ensure timely procurement of Special Clothing and Mountaineering items used in operational areas like Siachen resulting in stock out levels of these critical items being as high as 44 to 70 percent," said the CAG report, which was released on Friday.

The troops posted at the glacier brave low temperatures like minus 40 degrees Celsius at altitudes up to 23,000 feet.

"To meet shortage of these items, army resorted to the unauthorised practice of issuing partly worn stores (PWS) to the troops in the glacier region. Such practice of recycling of special clothing items is not desirable on grounds of hygiene, operational suitability and overall morale of the troops," the report says.

The Indian Army deploys about 19,800 soldiers in the frigid Siachen Glacier area, which overlooks Pakistan and China.

The depots meant for stocking and distribution and to ensure ready availability of the right material at the right place and at the right time to the troops are suffering from persistent shortages.

"Thirty percent of the user demands remained unmet, troops in the glacier region had to manage with old worn out clothing and there was high level of dissatisfaction amongst the troops about the quality of clothing supplied," said the report.

An user survey conducted by the CAG revealed that 50 percent of divisions or regiments were not satisfied with the quality and fitting of the clothing supplied.

The major dissatisfaction of the users was related to mismatch between trousers and shirts and their inappropriate sizes, poor quality of clothing with problem of quick colour fading, low usage life of boots against prescribed shelf life and lack of water proofing in caps.

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