It was a simple RTI query filed by me on the process of the system of procurement for the Bi-Modular Charge (BMC) System for the Bofors 155 mm Guns of the Artillery which went unanswered. It went unanswered by the Public Information Officer as well as the Appellate Authority who declined to answer it citing secrecy rules. It was quite inexplicable why the Army was stonewalling my query and so I decided to up the ante and file a appeal with the Central Information Commission which was kind enough to hear my appeal on July 18 this year and ordered the Army to provide the information regarding the process of procurement of BMC within 4 weeks of the receipt of the order.
The Army was present in full strength to defend its case and was represented by a Brigadier, a Lt Col as well as a Major. The Lt Col was from the tender committee which was dealing with the procurement of the BMC and it fell upon him to brief the CIC on the reason why a veil of secrecy was being thrown on the procurement process.
The very first line of defence adopted that the information could be misused by the enemy could jnot convince the CIC who said that it was not a cogent reason. Thereafter, there was no real defence left for the representatives of the Army but to admit that the reason why they were unable to give out precise information was because the procurement process had not yet been completed! Now this was an amazing fact accepted by them given the fact that several years have lapsed since the procurement process of BMC started and it is inexplicable why the tender has not yet been finalised.
On one hand the Indian Army has not been able to upgrade its artillery by purchasing new guns due to bureaucratic red-tapism and other assorted factors and on top of that comes this shocking admission that we are also unable to procure charges for our artillery shells of 155 calibre due to unknown reasons.
Now I do not know how this might affect the operations capability of the Army and I do not want to hazard a guess but I do feel that something is amiss somewhere and someone must be held accountable for this lapse.
Meanwhile six weeks have elapsed since the order was passed by the CIC and I am yet to receive the information that was ordered to be provided to me by the Indian Army. There has not even been a single line written to me to assure that the information is on its way or that it might be delayed.
I will of course, resort to filing another application before the CIC, but that is not the issue on hand. It is high time that antiquated procurement procedures are amended as well as transparency is brought into the entire system so that those responsible for delays on procurements are taken to task.
And hiding everything behind a fictitious veil of of secrecy is also ill-advised. We are all working in national interest. A holier than thou attitude while dealing with RTI applications and first appeals must be shed.
The sooner the better.
(Pic courtesy www.armyrecognition.com)