The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), India’s largest paramilitary force engaged in anti- naxal and counter terrorism operation is facing a severe shortage of bullet proof jackets. Also, the bullet proof jackets that they have been provided with , are proving to be more of a hindrance to the soldiers because of their weight which hampers the movement of the CRPF personnel on the ground.
According to sources within the organisation, the CRPF has been sanctioned 1,22,500 bullet proof jackets. However, the force is presently operating with only 95,000 such vests leading to fatalities and operational problems.
“There is a shortage of close to 27,500 vests,which means 27,000 less troops on the ground during a combat situation. The shortage is felt more by the forces who are engaged in the anti-naxal operations as there, the distance between the combatants is very less. No soldier can perform at his maximum capability if he is not wearing a bulletproof vest”, a commandant level officer posted in one of the naxal infested districts of Chhattisgarh claimed.
The bullet proof jackets that the CRPF has been provided with are proving to be more of a hindrance to the soldiers because of their weight which hampers the movement of the CRPF personnel on the ground.
The officials also said that the shortage of the bullet proof vests was not the only problem. The jawans were also dealing with the problems of heavy vests which were proving to be more of a liability rather than an asset in the field.
“While the heavyweight bullet proof jacket weighs more than 14 kg, the lighter ones weigh between 7.1 to 7.5 kg, so one can imagine the plight of a soldier who is wearing a 14 kg jacket while doing the patrolling duty in Sukma or Bastar. As of now, roughly 46,000 thousand jackets are the lightweight ones, while the rest (49,000) are the heavy weights one. The heavy jackets have been in use for a long time now and have outlived their operational worth. We have time and again requested the government to urgently replace all the heavy weight jackets with the lightweight ones”, another official stated.
According to CRPF officials, the lightweight jackets, that are made of Kevlar, not just increases the mobility and safety for the soldiers, but also enhances strength of the soldier by reducing fatigue.
Ministry of home officials stated that the problems being faced by the jawans one regarding the weight of the jackets was an ‘old’ one and the ministry was already working on a plan to phase out all the heavy weight jackets by 2019-2020. “Demands for lightweight BP Jackets have been received from troops stationed in Tripura, Chhattisgarh, Srinagar and Assam. We have already provided the maximum number of jackets to soldiers posted in the Naxal areas. There has been some delay in the procurement of new jackets as their trials have been delayed due to the need for conduct of velocity validation of ammunition”, the official said.