Seven years after the Army, in distress, said it desperately needed nearly two lakh bulletproof jackets, action is being taken to plug a basic necessity for the soldiers who guard our borders and fight terrorists.
In an SOS deal, a Rs. 125 crore contract for 50,000 vests is on the verge of being finalised with a supplier that is part of the Tata group. A complete delivery will take place within six months.
A contract with Tata Advanced Materials Ltd will be signed if they are able to submit production-grade samples which match the quality of the bullet proof jackets they showcased earlier during field trials.
Earlier this week, a parliamentary committee that looks at Defence said, “It is an unpleasant surprise for the Committee that in spite of critical shortages of Bullet Proof Jackets being highlighted … no improvement in the situation has taken place, which is alarming.”
Last year, a much larger deal to acquire 1.86 lakh bullet proof jackets fell through when none of the competitors met the standards laid down by the Army in trials. The Army has now issued a fresh tender for these jackets with clear instructions that companies interested in participating in trials need to submit their proposals by June. The Army wants these jackets to withstand .30 calibre armour piercing bullets, a requirement spelt out by the US National Institute of Justice level 4 (NIJ-4) which defines the global benchmark standards in body armour. The 50,000 jackets being immediately procured do not meet this standard and provide less than ideal protection for jawans from enemy bullets.
Indian companies like Kanpur-based MKU and Tata Advanced Materials export body armour to armed forces around the world. Now, finally, the process of acquiring these jackets for India has picked up momentum, a move that couldn’t have come a day later for the jawan defending the frontier.