Bullet-proof jackets can be the difference between life & death for our soldiers, yet for almost a decade our soldiers were left purely at the mercy of their luck when facing terrorists, cross-border firing & militants. One does wonder how many precious lives could have been saved had our leaders sincerely looked into this demanding requirement.
As per a 2009 plan the army needed 353,765 bullet-proof jackets. Out of these 1.86 lakh were to be supplied in the 11th plan (2007-2012) & another 1.67 lakh jackets during the 12th plan (2012-2017). But as usual the decision making was slow & careless that led to zero fulfilment of the requirements even when bullet-proof jackets are a mandatory requirement in counter-insurgency operations.
Keeping in consideration the growing tensions on the border, the militancy in Kashmir & the North-Eastern regions of the country, the government placed an emergency order of 50,000 jackets in March for a total of cost of Rs. 140 crore. Of this order, 20,000 jackets have already reached the army stores & have been handed over to the various formations.
The army wants modern light-weight modular bullet-proof jackets that allow greater agility to troops while protecting the head, neck, chest, groin & sides. The existing jackets are bulky vests & near the end of their operational life.
The Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) has also come up with a prototype jacket as per the newer technical specifications using different state-of-the-art ballistic materials. Supply of the leftover jackets is in fast-track mode.
The neglect of the previous governments towards our armed forces was so pervasive & damaging that the Chief of Army Staff during the Kargil war General Malik wrote in his book ‘Kargil: From Surprise to Victory’ that a decade after the Kargil War India’s deterrence factor stands further eroded than what it was during the war.
But ever since the Modi government has come to power the needs & interests of the armed forces have truly been looked after – from OROP to producing weapons in India, from the Rafale deal to leasing nuclear submarine from Russia – this government is carrying out blanketed modernization.