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SOURCE: Hindustan Times

The Ordnance Factory Board on Wednesday said it did not accept the figures given out in an internal army assessment that flagged concerns about faulty ammunition supplied by the board causing casualties and bleeding the exchequer — the army note said 403 accidents over the last six years had resulted in the deaths of 27 soldiers and a loss of Rs 960 crore

An OFB spokesperson said the board was not in possession of the army report, contents of which were widely reported in the media, including Hindustan Times.

“A number of newspapers have carried articles referring to accidents involving ammunition manufactured by OFB. The articles are allegedly based on an internal report of the Indian Army. OFB is not in possession of this report,” OFB deputy director general (corporate communication) Gagan Chaturvedi said in a press release issued on Wednesday.

When HT reached out to Chaturvedi on Tuesday for comments on the army’s internal assessment, he said it was not factually correct and the board would issue a statement on Wednesday.

“For the accidents that occurred in the period between January 2015 and December 2019, where defect investigation has been completed, only 19% of the cases are attributable to OFB,” OFB said, adding that accidents are complex phenomena and can have multiple causes such as poor gun maintenance, faulty firing drill, un-validated design changes in the weapon and faulty ammunition design.

The army note said 159 soldiers were injured in accidents attributed to OFB-supplied ammunition and armament between 2014 and 2020.

“Out of the total number of accidents where defect investigation has been completed, only 2% of the cases where casualties have been reported are attributable to OFB. In 98% of the cases where there have been casualties, these are not attributable to OFB. Between 2011 and 2018, there have been more than 125 accidents involving ammunition procured from sources other than OFB, both domestic and foreign. It is, however, seen that only cases where OFB ammunition is involved are selectively reported in the press,” the OFB statement said.

The four-page army note, reviewed by Hindustan Times on Tuesday, said that army could have bought 100 medium artillery guns with Rs 960 crore that was lost due to poor quality production.

OFB said that logic that the amount expended on the allegedly faulty ammunition involved in the highly inflated figure of 403 accidents could have financed 100 artillery guns is specious at best. “The same logic, if applied to the faulty Krasnopol ammunition imported during the Kargil war amounting to Rs 522.44 crore could have financed another 55 artillery guns,” the OFB said.

The government has set a one-year timeline for the corporatisation of OFB. It announced on September 11 the setting up of an empowered group of ministers (EGoM) under defence minister Rajnath Singh to oversee the corporatisation of OFB, which controls 41 ordnance factories. Thefactories controlled by the board employ at least 80,000 people who are against the corporatisation move.