The members of the parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), who had got clearance to visit Leh to get first-hand experience of how the soldiers are coping with harsh conditions, were “advised” by the Ministry of Defence against it amid the India-China border tensions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
According to Indian Express, the Ministry of Defence, in a letter, told the PAC, that “it may not be advisable” to visit Leh, Ladakh.
The visit was scheduled for October 28 and 29. However, some MPs wanted a change in dates due to elections in Bihar and bypolls in other states. Later, it was rescheduled from November 8 to 10.
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“The present situation with soldiers from both sides in close proximity; all officers and men are involved in ensuring full preparedness, to prevent any escalation in the situation. Accordingly, it may not be advisable for such a delegation comprising VVIPs to visit Leh, Ladakh at this juncture. A fresh date will be intimated as and when there is some disengagement on the ground,” the letter dated October 28 from the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) of the Ministry of Defence said.
The PAC, which is headed by Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, had got clearance for the visit from Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.
The committee wanted to visit Leh as it is examining the latest report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) that had pointed out deficiencies in high-altitude clothing and equipment and the need to equip soldiers with proper gear.
The PAC also discussed the subject with chief of defence staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and during this meeting Chowdhury asked General Rawat to consider a tour for the MPs to the Ladakh sector.
The CAG had tabled a report in parliament in February drawing the attention of MPs to the shortage of essential gear, clothing and rations being faced by soldiers deployed in high-altitude areas such as Siachen and Ladakh.
The CAG had pointed out critical shortage of snow goggles and multi-purpose boots for soldiers between November 2015 and September 2016. The Army had then said that the deficiencies mentioned by the CAG have been taken care of and each soldier deployed in Siachen was supplied with gear worth Rs 1 lakh.