GUWAHATI: The inquiry report has neither given clean chit to the Bulletproof jacket that was worn by slain SI Bhaskar Kalita during his encounter with militants nor has it blamed the SI for the improper wearing of the vest. The inquiry has, however, spotted a number omissions and commissions on the part of the State Police while purchasing that particular lot of jackets.
With the death of SI Bhaskar Kalita in the encounter with the ULFA at Bordumsa in Tinsukia district, the quality of the particular set of Bulletproof vests being worn by the State police personnel came under question. Such a situation prompted Dispur to order an inquiry into the quality of the Bulletproof jackets. Additional Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna conducted the inquiry and submitted the report to the government recently.
The inquiry report, according to State Home Department sources, spelt it out in clear terms that the modified guidelines of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on the purchase of Bulletproof vests had been grossly overlooked while making the purchase. The news report that came out in a section of media says that the inquiry report has given a clean chit to the quality of the bulletproof jackets of the State police force and blamed the slain SI for the improper wearing of the Bulletproof vest. It seems, the news report is not based on facts. It also seems that the inquiry report has also stirred up some politics of sorts among top-level police officials in the State.
According to State Home Department sources, as part of the inquiry the lot of Bulletproof vests one of which was worn by Bhaskar Kalita during the encounter with the ULFA was sent to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) at Chandigarh for testing their quality. It is the same laboratory where this lot of bulletproof vests was put to the proof in 2012. The FSL report says that over the years the effectiveness of the Bulletproof vests as shown in 2012 has been found to have reduced in 2018.
There are some hard facts that throw much light on lapses in the purchase of the bulletproof vests, the sources said. As many as 1,560 bulletproof vests were purchased from Tata Advanced Materials in 2012. According to the State police, the service span of this lot of bulletproof jackets is ten years. Contrary to this, the manufacturer gave a warranty of three years and for the rest seven years the manufacturer laid a condition for signing an agreement for the maintenance of the jackets annually. The Assam Police, however, opted not to sign the agreement. Why? This lends credence to the fact that the jackets have not been put to proof for quality annually since their purchase in 2012.
Another hard fact that directly questions the credentials of the company from where the bulletproof jackets were purchased and its products is – other competitors of the company in the market alleged Tata Advanced Materials’ bulletproof jackets not being up to mark. The competitor companies had even alleged that Madhya Pradesh Police had to cancel an order of 800 bulletproof jackets given to Tata Advanced Materials for its quality. The State police got it confirmed from the Madhya Pradesh Government after communication, but opted to go ahead with the purchasing deal with Tata Advanced Materials. Why?
The inquiry report, according to sources, further says that the particular lot of bulletproof jackets is very heavy making movement during encounter difficult for police personnel. This apart, according to sources, the report further says that this lot of bulletproof jackets has never been put to the proof under wet condition. Assam being a rain-fed State, testing bulletproof vests under wet condition is a must. However, all such indispensible criteria were overlooked while purchasing the jackets. Why? The report further says that this lot of bulletproof jackets has protection only from the front and rear sides, not from left and right sides. The inquiry report has suggested that all such matters need to be taken care of while making purchase of bulletproof jackets in the future.
According to sources, a quality bulletproof jacket can resist bullets fired from ten metres away from AK-47 rifles, INSAS rifles, SLRs, pistol etc.