For over 17 years, 900 body bags procured by the Indian Army have been lying locked up in a neglected warehouse, while military personnel struggle to bring their casualties back from the field, an Asia Times investigation revealed.
Disturbing images of seven Indian Air Force personnel, killed while bringing supplies to Indian Army troops at a remote post in the state of Arunachal Pradesh on the China-India border, caused wide-spread outrage after they surfaced a few days ago. The images were widely circulated on social media and highlighted the fact that the Indian Army and the Air Force lacked basic equipment to ferry home their dead comrades in a dignified manner.
In an official statement, the Indian Army called the lack of adequate facilities to evacuate the bodies in a proper manner an “aberration”.
The 900 body bags were part of a consignment that was procured on August 2, 1999, records show. According to documents accessed by Asia Times, the BJP government led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee ordered the purchase at the height of the Kargil war.
The original order was placed in July 1999 when India and Pakistan were at war in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, after Pakistani troops were detected on the Indian side of the Line of Control. The war erupted in May that year, but the government was keen that the bodies of the soldiers killed in battle were returned home.
But the procurement erupted into a major controversy when allegations surfaced that the government had taken kickbacks for procuring the body bags and caskets. Opposition parties, led by the Congress party, raised the issue in Parliament a year later, forcing the government to weather the political storm.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted nearly a decade-long investigation that failed to produce results. “After years of investigation, the CBI officials realized that a typing error had led to the purported scam,” a senior military official stated on the condition of anonymity.
The error arose when a clerk typed the weight of the caskets as 18 kilograms, while the actual weight was 55 kilograms. This error erupted into a major controversy, for a deal worth $400,000. If the original deal had gone through, the Indian Army would have received 3,000 body bags and 500 caskets. The caskets are similar to those used by the US military.
The idea to procure body bags and better caskets came from an Indian military unit posted on a UN mission in Somalia. The unit commander wrote back to Army Headquarters recommending their procurement. With the war on, the government expedited the procurement and found an American firm to supply them.
In 2013, the CBI finally cleared the military personnel accused of trying to fix the deal. By this time several military careers had already been cashiered. In October 2015, the Supreme Court confirmed that charges had been false and cleared everyone involved.
Since then, the CBI sat on the case while the 900 body bags and 150 caskets lay forgotten in an abandoned Delhi warehouse. Ironically, the documents show that government auditors also queried the price of the caskets and the body bags at the time of the purchase in 1999. Senior military officials fear this could lead to more delays, even as the current stock lies unused.
“This neglect is just the tip of the iceberg and the rot runs much deeper,” Lieutenant General H.S. Panag, who retired from service a few years ago, told Asia Times during a telephone interview. “We have been trying to get these body bags for over a decade, but the Ministry of Defense and the bureaucrats have stymied all our efforts.” Panag was the first one to raise the issue on Twitter, leading to massive outrage and debate.
The audit authorities are a hindrance in the smooth functioning of any organization especially the armed forces
It is civilian prpoganda. Army have their own ethics and working style. They work in extremely odd situations. Sometkme they dony have time for food too. Please let them with their working culture. They are very good even with enemy’s body too. We civilian only can make stories with cup of tea.how many feom us take care of anybody’s accident on road. In that case we pass from accident ppl silently. We do not have right to raise question on army working style.
Negative forces like audit, accounts, and vigilance who are not responsible for anything, are the main road blocks in decision making. Because they are not responsible for operations in all government departments, they simply write negative notings just to make their presence felt.
At times, one feels disgusted and sick of the mindset of so many Indians who boast without stop about "..spirituality" of India.
Every political party must be sensitive in matters regarding defence forces. With their power no one can handle them if they decide to revolt. Better stop pushing them to it. Have some shame for your deeds if not respect towards defence forces. What example is being set here? Whatever has happened should never be repeated. Solve the matter. Give forces some autonomy they are more disciplined and mature to decide in benefit of nation.
Saikat datta…u r a piece of shit…the img u post is at Ghy base. as u know the accident happened there at AP from where they brought with all the locally available resources received without proper box but after body was received at Ghy the postmodern were done and the bodies were boxed up with proper military honour.
Don’t be so negative,do a full research.
Who the hell is Asia Times now? Sounds like a country cousin of The Wire and The Scroll!
Well brought out.Apart from the above even sometimes our own top echelon
sitting in their cushy a/c offices in HQ
fail to appreciate the ground requirements of field work.With negative mind they act as stumbling block only. In the past Mr George Fernandez as RM had ordered the Babu’s in MOD to visit Siachin to clear Army’s requirements of Snowmobiles.
Politicians represent NATIONAL CHARACTER. So it is said.
It is also said that a Nation that cannot respect its soldiers (add, dead or alive), is doomed.
Political parties don’t matter. But character ofv the politician matters. Connect how hundreds were beheaded in revolutions across the globe, down the ages. Are we closing into a similar situation ?
Why are the Bureaucrats sitting in the MOD, not subject to Army Act, like any other common soldiers under MOD ? It is a high time, this issue is addressed.
Are u an indian?? sir
I dont know the merits of some of the claims but it would appear there is a lot of work to be done in corruption and inefficiency in the military never mind the public and private sector. In fact during the tension between China and India, I see the bombastic claims on both sides and wonder who will be more prepared for a conflict.
I feel the police being unreasonable is unfair but that’s how they function in almost all states.. even I have faced their ignorant and sometime’s rude behaviour. But truth being told, even after facing such situations, we don’t join any anti India group. It’s just that in Kashmir, sadly they have these anti social elements that corrupt the views of young minds and parents aren’t able to stop them.
Here there is no 1 to mislead me, so I go on my work. And more so because of that reason, the police remain more suspicious.
It’s basically like the question "Did chicken come first or the egg?"
I REQUEST MINISTRY OF DEFENCE TO TAKE URGENTY AUDIT THE DEFENCE STOCK , SPAREPARTS , AND NEW PROCURED ITEMS WHICH IS NOT USED FOR SO MANY DASY JUST LYING IDLE IN THE DUMP YARDS OF DEFENCE STORE . I WILL GIVE A SMALL EXAMPLE OF THE CRT OF RADAR OF MIG 21 BIS AIRCRAFT QTY 120 WAS LYING IN A TEZPUR AIRBASE IN 1994 ATLEAST FOR LAST 15 YEARS NO BODY BOTHER TO CHECK WHEN WE UNPACKED THE ITEM IT WAS CRITICAL REQUIREMENT FOR SEVARAL AIRCRAFT DOWN FOR THE EQUIPEMENT .
SO ITS A PRE WARNING FOR ALL THE AIRFORCE /NAVY AND ARMY UNITS SITING ON THE UNPACKED EQUIPEMENTS NEW SPAREPARTS NO BODY EVEN ACCOUNTABLE FOR CRORES OF RUPEES OF EX CHEQUER ABADONED JUST LIKE THAT WHO WILL BELL THE CAT THATS THE PROBLEM .
Dignity cannot thrive where there is corruption.
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