Sanjha Morcha

Ammo dump blast: Lt Col’s widow moves HC

Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, April 13

Almost three years after 19 persons had lost their lives in a massive fire that had broken out at the Central Ammunition Depot (CAD), Pulgaon, it has now emerged that the Army had made multiple requests to the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) for removing defective anti-tank mines from the depot but no action was taken on the requests.

A petition filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court by the widow of Lt Col RS Pawar, herself an Army officer hailing from Rohtak, has averred that the Army had in strong terms put on record that the matter was being “delayed deliberately” and “dragged unendingly,” thereby posing a serious threat to safety and security of personnel and endangering the establishment.

No effective action whatsoever was taken by the OFB, ultimately leading to the tragic blast in depot, one of the largest in Asia, on May 31, 2016 because of defective mines. Two officers, including Lt Col Pawar, who was posthumously decorated for gallantry, and 17 others were killed and a huge stockpile of ammunition was destroyed.

Taking cognisance of the petition filed by Maj Reenu Ohlan, the High Court has issued notices to the Department of Defence Production (DDP) and the OFB. Besides seeking compensation “as the court may deem fit” from these two establishments, she has also sought action on the directions passed by the Defence Minster for fixing accountability and culpability in the incident and also for ensuring time-bound removal of all defective ammunition to prevent any such catastrophe in the future.

It was the mandate of technical experts from the OFB and the Quality Assurance directorate to remove the mines categorised as defective. The Army, which controls the CAD, is not authorised to handle such ammunition. In fact, there was another blast at CAD, Pulgaon in 2018, in which six persons were killed.

Pointing out that the though the Army and the Department of Defence (DoD) in the MoD are supporting her, she has averred that there has been total apathy, negligence and indifference on part of the DDP and OFB.