This is perhaps not as scary as rogue elements stealing nuclear warheads from unstable countries. Even then, this is unsettling.
There is a shortage of 25 INSAS rifles and 12,061 bullets from the armoury of the Special Armed Police Battalion (SAPB), Thiruvananthapuram. The 5.56mm INSAS assault rifles are the standard infantry weapon of the Indian Armed Forces.
Here is the shocking part: The police department was aware of the shortage in ammunition but still had attempted to cover up the shortfall instead of tracing the lost rifles and bullets.
This was revealed in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on general and social sector, which was tabled in the Assembly on Wednesday. The CAG has asked the government to urgently trace the missing bullets and rifles.
The lost bullets include 1578 used in AK-47 rifles and 1835 used in INSAS rifles. Most of the missing bullets (8398) are used in self-loading rifles.
There was also a shortage of 250 drill cartridges (bullets used for training). The CAG audit noticed that the shortage was sought to be covered by replacing the missing bullets with dummy ones, hollow metallic items made of brass and similar in shape and size to drill cartridges.
The SAPB was aware of the shortage of bullets used in AK-47s, the 7.62 mm bullets, way back in September, 2015. As many as 200 bullets were then reported missing by the officer commandant of SAPB's B Company. An investigation board was then quickly constituted to conduct verification of all ammunition in the SAPB. Shortage of an additional 200 bullets was reported by the board.
The board, however, did not take the shortage seriously as it concluded that it had occurred at the packing stage, when the bullets were filled in boxes at the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).
This finding was but contradicted by the police chief stores (PCS). The PCS said the two boxes in which the shortage was found were not from the OFB. A new investigation board was thus formed and this fresh probe revealed that many bullet boxes were tampered with. For instance a bullet box packed in July, 1999, contained rounds manufactured after 2000.
“The police department failed to act upon the report of the board and trace the missing ammunition and fix responsibility on the officials who committed the serious offence of fraudulent re-packing of rounds,” the CAG report said.
Officers in charge of arms and ammunition are supposed to check the armoury in their charge at least once in a week and make an entry in the register maintained for the purpose. Audit found the records were not properly maintained.