Jawans’ wait for 1.86 lakh bullet-proof jackets gets longer Fresh request for proposals (RFPs) are expected to be floated by the ministry of defence (MoD) for the procurement for 1,86,138 bullet-proof jackets, which was approved by the defence acquisitions council in October 2009. According to defence ministry sources, “In a meeting which took place last week between the six vendors and senior army officers, the decision was taken to scrap the existing RFP for 1 lakh-plus bullet-proof jackets. The six Indian vendors, including SM Group, Indian Armour, Shri Lakshmi Defence Solutions, Tata Advanced Materials and MKU, failed to meet the technical parameters or GSQRs (general staff qualitative requirements) laid down by the army.” At a cost of Rs 50, 000 each, these 1.86 lakh jackets were to be inducted by 2012 and this was to be followed by another order of 1.67 lakh jackets. However, as many as 41 RFPs of the Indian Army had fallen through over a period of 18 months ending March 2012 because they had not met the technical parameters. “That not one of the six competitors could come up with a jacket that meets the army’s requirement clearly indicates that it wants a jacket that no manufacturer is in a position to make and probably not even the most beleaguered troops are using anywhere in the world. Initiating a new case with revised specifications might well end up in a similar situation,” pointed out an industry observer. Former financial advisor of MoD (acquisition) Amit Cowshish said: “Why not, then, categorise these bullet-proof jackets as a ‘development project’ for developing a futuristic jacket in the long run, while meeting the short-and-medium-term requirements by procuring the best jackets that are available off-the-shelf?” “It would be wise to be pragmatic while formulating the specifications, rather than blaming the ‘convoluted’ procurement procedures and ‘politico-bureaucratic’ apathy for slow pace of army’s modernisation,” Cowshish added. In fact, a recent report of the parliamentary panel on defence had slammed the government for delaying purchase of these vital self protection gear, which is available locally. Industry players argue that the government taking too much time to finalise its tenders for bullet-proof jackets. Tenders usually demand either Level III protection (against 9 millimetre bullets) or Level IV protection (against a 7.62 millimetre armour piercing rifle bullet).