Tuesday, May 22, 2001,
Chandigarh, India



Ordnance performance in
correct perspective

THE audit observations contained in the recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on ordnance services have been highlighted by the media showing the Army Ordnance Corps in a rather poor light. There is no doubt that all is not well with the Corps.

The reasons for the malaise have, however, not been gone into in detail. Many people in the media as also the public at large seem to believe that the AOC is also the producer or manufacturer of the Army’s requirements, besides computing them, receiving stocks and distributing them. The unavailability of stores has been shown to be in the range of 12 to 40 per cent and delays in issuing stores from the ideal time of 22 days in case of normal demands up to three years in the worst cases.

In the existing system followed by the ordnance services for determining the requirements of the Army, after annual reviews and initiating procurement action, is quite sound. Unfortunately the determination of requirements is dependent on receipt of certain vital inputs from other agencies, and invariably these inputs are not received by the ordnance service in time, resulting in delay in the issue of necessary directives to the central depots to start their annual reviews and place demands on the sources of supply



There is no doubt that promptness in placing order is very important so that stores are received within the prescribed lead time. This, however, does not happen. Delays occur not only in the CODs but also at other higher levels, particularity in case of high value items requiring financial concurrence of the competent authorities.

There are 39 ordnance factories and eight public sector undertakings with whom procurement orders are placed. In the case of the former, the review covers the total liability period i.e the maintenance period and the lead time is 54 months. With a fairly sound industrial base now existing in the country, this period is considered abnormally long. The irony is that even with this long lead time, the ordnance factories are generally unable to meet the supply schedules. The performance of the PSUs is not much different: they too default in meeting the targets very frequently.

The civilian personnel performing duties of provisioning and procurement as well as store-keeping constitute roughly 80 per cent of the AOC strength. The present system provides for recruiting candidates with the minimum qualification of SSC. An efficient and dedicated work force with higher standards of education and trained at the College of Material Management, Jabalpur, in forecasting techniques and computer literacy will be of great help to enable the AOC to perform its role effectively.

It has been mentioned that surplus stores for indefinite periods are lying in the CODs leading to high inventory carrying costs. This statement is correct. But the disposal of the redundant inventory is not in the hands of the ordnance depots alone. They can only declare the stores surplus to their requirements. Subsequently, there are many time-consuming procedures involving other agencies at Army HQ and the MOD which take long time to finalise the cases. There is a dire need to effect organisational and procedural changes to overcome the existing lacunae. Mere witch -hunting will be of no use.

With the above constraints, it is hardly fair to blame the AOC for failing to improve the availability of stores, and taking long time to meet the demands of consumers. It is hoped that with the completion of the Central Inventory Control Project, it would be possible to utilise modern material techniques, provide transparency of inventory at all levels and reduce time of provisioning, procurement, distribution and monitoring of other related activities. This project should have been completed by now but Ordnance has little control over this. The MOD is understood to be monitoring it so as to complete it in as short a time as possible.

Lt GEN S. S . SANDHU (RETD), New Delhi

The Koh-i-Noor story

In his letter “The tale of Koh-i-Noor” (May 17) Balkara Singh has made the following observations:

(a) A treaty of mutual peace and friendship was signed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Lord Minto, the then Governor-General of India, at the former’s gilded palace at Lahore on April 25, 1809.

(b) Under this treaty, a tripartite treaty was signed by Lord Auckland, Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Shah Shuja in 1838 with the object to place the Shah on the throne of Afghanistan, which he ascended in 1803.

(c) As a token of gratitude, the Shah presented the Maharaja with the Koh-i-Noor.

This is not correct. The treaty of April 25, 1809, was concluded at Amritsar by Maharaja Ranjit Singh on his own part and Charles Theophilus Metcalfe on the part of the British government. It was signed by them and ratified by the Governor-General in Council on May 30, 1809.

The Tripartite Treaty was conducted on June 26, 1838, and ratified by Governor-General Auckland on July 25, 1838. It revived the Maharaja’s old treaty of 1833 with Shah Shuja substantially, but some supplementary articles considerably modified its spirit. Its main object was to help the Shah to recover his lost throne.

The Maharaja died on June 27, 1839. Shah Shuja made his public entry into Kabul on August 7, 1839. There was, therefore, no question of Shah Shuja presenting him with the Koh-i-Noor.

The factual position is that, after his deposition, Shah Shuja was seized by Ata Mohammad Khan, the Governor of Kashmir. He threatened him with death to extort the Koh-i-Noor. Shah’s queen, Wafa Begum, who was staying at Lahore under the protection of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, promised to give the jewel to him as a token of gratitude if he rescued her husband.

The Maharaja deputed his General, Diwan Mohkam Chand, who brought the Shah to Lahore. Instead of redeeming the promise, the Shah and his wife dilly-dallied. The Maharaja made an offer of Rs 3 lakh and an annual jagir of Rs 50,000 for them. The Shah accepted the same and presented the diamond to him in a ceremonial manner.


Disappointing piece

It was a bit of disappointment to go through P. Raman’s piece “Jaswant’s pax American doctrine” (May 15). The first para of this article described the statement of MEA on NMD as “amounting to a surrender of the nation’s minimum security interests”. However, in the entire article there is not a sentence identifying any aspect of the nation’s security interest and the way it is supposed to have been surrendered or harmed.

G. V. GUPTA, Panchkula




It may appear presumptuous to address the Editor of a newspaper like The Tribune yet believing that the wisest of the wise Suleman learned wisdom from commoners, I must say something.

During 1952, I contradicted Jyoti Basu that his victory was not the victory of the Communist Party of India in general and the Communist Party of West Bengal in particular, but instead his personal victory, or of the CPI of greater Calcutta at the most. He was so pleased that his praise of mine looked like flattery. He, however, agreed that I was a commoner from whom he wanted to learn like Suleman. He further agreed that the CPI cannot become a party without the support of rural masses — being 75 per cent of the population.

B.C. Roy, the former Chief Minister of West Bengal, though showing immense respect to the Press was adamant that his victory was not “potential defeat”, as almost all his Cabinet colleagues had lost the election. His harping about three-fourth majority was like the Communist candidate winning 99.9 per cent majority in the erstwhile USSR election, when there was only one candidate in the real sense

How the AIADMK has got such a huge majoritydespite being headed by the queen of corruption? In my view, the others were equally corrupt.

Are we heading towards a two-party system where choice is between two thieves? Will there be no third honest alternative? The answer lies in peoples’ constant vigilance that prevents turn coating. No CPM legislature has become a turncoat or a political prostitute despite lot of loopholes in the election system.



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