Gun salute that wasn’t: Police report says cartridges were damp

Santosh Singh
Jagannath Mishra (1937-2019)

AN INVESTIGATION by the Supaul police has found that the reason none of the 21 rifles fired during the final salute to former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra on 21 August, was moisture , more so because of the area being flood-hit. The police are yet to sumbit their report.

Sources told The Sunday Express that it has been found that blank catridges did not fire because of being moist . It may be because of the storage of cartridges at a damp place. It is possible that the pack that contained blank cartridges to be fired was not repacked after taking out some cartridges, said a source requesting anonymity.

Some jawans were given a fresh set of blank catridges later and they fired. It suggested that the arms were fine, said a Supaul police source. Supaul SP Mrityunjay Choudhary did not respond to calls or text messages.

Bihar Director General of Police Gupteshwar Pandey said, We are bringing out a comprehensive order on the upkeep and maintenance of arms and ammunitions, reiterarting annual firing practice, physical verification of arms stores by senior police officers. It would also ensure that the Police Manual on ways to avoid moisture are adhered to.

The first such instance in the history of the state where all 21 rifles in a gun salute failed to fire has put a question mark on the maintenance of firearms and cartridges at weapons stores of the Bihar Police. There is a weapons store in each of the state s 40 police districts, besides 16 establishments of the Government Railway Police, Bihar Military Police (BMP) and Home Guards.

Some armourers who have carried out inspection of weapons stores at several districts in the last 10 years said the storage of weapons and cartridges at damp stores, at times because of leaking roofs , is a major area of concern. One reason for this is the erratic physical inspection of weapons stores by concerned officers. Monitoring should be made a mandatory quarterly exercise, said a police officer.

Another major area of concern, said a police officer, was the absence of annual firing practice . Some districts have not conducted firearms practice for six-seven years now. The Bihar Police has, in all, 303 rifles, 7.63 bolt action rifles, SLRs, INSAS rifles, Amogh rifles and AK-47s.