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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014

VK Singh says Tatra scam trail leads to senior PMO man

Saikat Datta, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, November 07, 2013
First Published: 23:17 IST(7/11/2013) | Last Updated: 18:35 IST(8/11/2013)

"'Don't ask too many questions sir,' I was advised by those in the know of the procurement business. 'The trail goes right up to a very high official in the PMO (prime minister's office)'."

These words of General Vijay Kumar Singh on the Tatra truck scandal and many other controversies that dogged his tenure as the 26th army chief of India will find a mention in a tell-all autobiography -- Courage and Conviction -- that hits the stands on Friday.

Tatra trucks, in service of the army for nearly 20 years, were being imported by government-run Bharat Earth Movers Limited. There were whispers that the vehicles were being imported though the government had mandated that they be manufactured locally.

Once Gen Singh took up the matter, the CBI launched an investigation. Singh claims he was advised against raising the issue because the link went straight up to a senior official in the PMO but hasn't identified the official.

The 363-page book, co-authored with writer and film-maker Kunal Verma and published by Aleph Books, blames ex-army chief and former Arunachal Pradesh governor Gen JJ Singh of "fixing" the army's line of succession.

The former chief, who was involved in a much publicised age row with the government, claims JJ Singh manipulated promotion boards to ensure that the Bikram Singh, the serving army chief, could take over from him.

Singh took over as the army chief on March 31, 2010 from Gen Deepak Kapoor.

Singh, who took the government to the Supreme Court over the age row, says throughout his career, his year of birth had been accepted as 1951. The sudden change was made after several other officers who could have been in the race to be the army chief, were "removed".

While Singh had to withdraw the case, he has always blamed government officials and one of his predecessors for the change in age. Had 1951 been accepted as his year of birth, Singh would have continued to be the army chief for another year-- till May 2013.

The court recently started contempt proceedings against him for comments he made about the case.  

Singh also claims that his effort to weed out corruption led to a powerful clique conspiring against him.

Singh, who early in his carrier served in the sensitive Military Operations directorate and had a ring-side view of Operation Bluestar, when the army entered the holiest Sikh shrine the Golden Temple in 1984. He blames the then Western army commander Lt Gen K Sundarji for undermining senior army officers and misleading Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

He says political considerations overtook military logic leading to the botched operation that would eventually cost Gandhi her life and triggered a spiral of violence in Punjab that continued till early 1990s. Gen Sundarji, he says, would make another strategic blunder a few years later, almost bringing India and Pakistan to the brink of war.

The book also blames the ministry of defence for the slow pace of military modernisation and talks about how a critical post was kept vacant during his tenure to prevent modernisation.

READ: Of political blunders and faltering Generals


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