Faulty mortar shells have killed two Border Security Force (BSF) troopers and injured 43 during training in the last six years. All the incidents occurred after the shells failed to take flight up to the desired distance and exploded just after they ejected from the mortar.
Data compiled by the BSF showed that the two deaths and 43 injuries occurred in nine incidents spread over three firing ranges -- Kishangarh in Rajasthan, Darrang in Assam and Sitagarha in Jharkhand -- between January 2012 and June 2017.
Three accidental shell explosions have been reported at two firing ranges this year, injuring 19 BSF personnel. The number of the injured BSF troopers this year is the highest in six years.
Only three such incidents occurred each in 2014, 2015 and 2016, causing injuries to one, nine and three BSF personnel, respectively.
Two incidents in 2013 left seven troopers injured while a solitary incident in 2012 injured four men.
The BSF raised the issue with the Ordnance Factory Board, which functions under the Defence Ministry, after this year's May 30 incident at Kishangarh close to the Pakistan border leaving nine troopers injured.
The incident happened around 8.30 a.m. when the BSF personnel were practising with 51mm mortar shells. One exploded without covering the entire distance.
BSF Inspector General (Operations) Rajiv Krishna told IANS that an inquiry report of the shell explosion had been shared with Ordnance Factory Board officials to check the manufacturing errors of shells provided by them and to take corrective steps.
"These incidents have occurred in earlier years too. Every time, we conduct a proper inquiry and submit our report to the ordnance board. Our investigation of the May 30 incident revealed that the shell exploded before reaching its destination due to a manufacturing defect in its fuse," Krishna said.
"The fuse in the shell did not function properly and it resulted in the shortfall."
Explaining the functioning of the fuse, another BSF official told IANS on condition of anonymity: "A proper combination of baarood (explosive) is filled in the fuse which produces a powerful smoke followed by fire which helps in propelling the shell to its destination.
"If the explosive doesn't burn properly, the fuse fails to throw the shell on to its target."
The 257,000-strong BSF is tasked with guarding India's land border and, although a paramilitary force, is trained by the Army. But it comes under the operational control of the Home Ministry.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)
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