Defence minister AK Antony on Monday said the UPA government had not bought a single Tatra truck and current deliveries were part of the contract signed by the NDA government in 2003.
The minister said new order had been placed for Tatra trucks since the army headquarters changed the qualitative requirements in 2008. He said six Indian and 14 foreign firms were taking part in trials for heavy mobility trucks.
“We have nothing to hide. So I can answer very boldly,” Antony said during Question Hour in the Lok Sabha, even as BJP MPs attempted to disrupt his reply.
He said 2,950 Tatra trucks were bought between 1999 and 2003 by the then NDA government, quoting special circumstances and requirement for troop movement for Operation Parakram.
“Between 1986 and 2012, we have procured nearly 6,500 vehicles from Tatra. Quoting special circumstances, in 1999, 2001 and 2002-03, 2950 vehicles were procured by the government of that day from Tatra for Operation Parakram,” he added.
Antony had on March 26 ordered a CBI probe into army chief General VK Singh's allegations that he was offered a R14-crore bribe by a retired army officer to buy “substandard” trucks for the army in 2010.
In Rajya Sabha, MPs asked the government to take steps to plug gaps in defence readiness, bring about more transparency in defence deals and fulfill the longstanding demand for ‘one rank, one pension.’
Initiating a discussion on the working of the defence ministry, BJP MP Balbir Punj demanded the defence budget be increased to 3% of the GDP from the existing 1.9%.
He said the 17% hike in defence allocation this year was merely “window dressing” and an exercise in “public relations”, seen in the context of dollar value. He said Antony was following a dangerous policy of “no work, clean image.”