Tuesday’s blast at army’s central ammunition depot at Pulgaon in Maharashtra that killed six people and injured 10 others once again highlights the deplorable standards of our ordnance manufacturing and storing facilities. Among the dead was an employee of the ordnance factory at Khamaria in Jabalpur and five casual labourers. They were engaged in destroying a 23mm Schilka anti-aircraft ammunition when the mishap occurred. The Pulgaon depot houses the biggest stockpile of weapons and ammunitions in the country and feeds the entire army. This isn’t the first time that an accident has occurred at the ordnance depot. In 2016, a bigger blast had killed 19 people and injured 17.
Such mishaps at one of the most sensitive security facilities in the country exemplify a shocking culture of laxity. In 2016, government admitted that ammunition depots were short of 23 fire fighting trucks and 362 personnel. The loss of lives and ordnance worth hundreds of crores of rupees shows that we simply don’t have our basics right in the defence manufacturing sector. This is one of the main reasons why government’s much touted plans for Make in India in defence haven’t really taken off.
Given India’s harsh geopolitical environment and strategic imperatives, it must aim to establish a vibrant military-industrial complex. Apart from involving the private sector, this would require creating an eco-system where defence research institutes, think tanks and universities coordinate to bridge the gaps between strategic requirement, production and procurement. China went from being one of the biggest importers of defence equipment to the third largest defence exporter today. This gives Beijing an enormous amount of strategic heft. Similarly, India too needs to move from assembly-oriented defence manufacturing to producing big ticket defence platforms on a regular basis. The first step, however, would be to start with basics and get our ordnance manufacturing and storage systems up to quality standards.
Ammunition: considerations that can be used to support one’s case in debate.
Example: These figures provide ammunition to the argument for more resources
Synonyms: bullets, shells, projectiles, missiles, rounds, shot, slugs, cartridges
Deplorable: deserving strong condemnation.
Example: The deplorable conditions in which most prisoners are held
Synonyms: disgraceful, shameful, dishonorable, unworthy, inexcusable, unpardonable
Engage: occupy, attract, or involve someone’s interest or attention
Example: He plowed on, trying to outline his plans and engage Sutton’s attention
Synonyms: capture, catch, arrest, grab, snag, draw, attract, gain, win, hold
Mishap: an unlucky accident.
Example: Although there were a few minor mishaps, none of the pancakes stuck to the ceiling
Synonyms: accident, trouble, problem, difficulty, setback, adversity, misfortune
Stockpile: accumulate a large stock of goods or materials
Example: He claimed that the weapons were being stockpiled
Synonyms: store up, amass, accumulate, store (up), stock up on, hoard, cache
Exemplify: be a typical example of.
Example: Rock bands that best exemplify the spirit of the age
Synonyms: typify, epitomize, represent, be representative of, symbolize
Touted: attempt to sell something, typically by pestering people in an aggressive or bold manner
Example: Jim was touting his wares
Imperative: giving an authoritative command
Example: The bell pealed again, a final imperative call
Synonyms: peremptory, commanding, imperious, authoritative, masterful
Enormous: very large in size, quantity, or extent.
Example: Her enormous blue eyes
Synonyms: huge, vast, immense, gigantic, very big, great, giant, massive