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NEW DELHI – (Web Desk/Online) Indian Army which desperately needs 3,53,765 new bullet-proof vests finally would get 50,000 such vests for which it had to sign an “emergency” procurement contract worth Rs 140 crores, Indian media reported on Thursday.

And this, too, took 10 years.

“The jackets will be delivered from August onward. All the jackets are to be delivered by January 2017,” Indian defence ministry officials said.

Indian army’s existing bulky bullet-proof vests – with poor protection – are near the end of their operational life.

Given the huge shortage of such vests in the 1.18-million strong Indian army – no thanks to convoluted procurement procedures – defence minister Manohar Parrikar approved this “interim emergency acquisition” through the “revenue route” soon after he took over minister in November 2014.

An earlier tender for the “capital procurement” of 1.86 lakh modular jackets was scrapped in October 2015 because the samples offered by six vendors “failed” to clear field trials, as was first reported by TOI.

The modern light-weight jackets, as per the Army’s new technical specifications, were meant to adequately protect the head, neck, chest, groin and sides of foot-soldiers.

They would also have allowed soldiers to move with greater agility during counter-insurgency operations in difficult “unfriendly” terrain.

However, when the samples failed to meet requirements, the Army vice-chief’s existing financial powers were “relaxed as a one-time exception” to ensure the urgent purchase of 50,000 jackets based on older technical specifications.

“The minister and Army vice-chief Lt-General M M S Rai pushed to expedite the entire process,” said a source.

As many as 1.86 lakh jackets were to be supplied to soldiers by 2012 and another 1.67 lakh vests were to be supplied by 2017. None have been acquired till date.

India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has   now come up with a prototype bullet-proof jacket, as per the newer technical specifications, using different “state-of-the-art ballistic materials”.

This under-development prototype aims to protect against AK-47s and self-loading rifle bullets.

“The prototype has successfully undergone stage-1 and 2 trials. It will be a contender in the fresh capital procurement case being initiated again for the first lot of 1.86 lakh jackets,” said a Indian official.