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Top defence scientist says Tatra trucks best

VK Saraswat, DRDO chief and scientific adviser to the defence minister has countered Gen VK Singh, saying there were no complaints about the performance of the heavy-duty trucks that were inducted into the army in 1987. Rahul Singh reports. Gen Singh names Tejinder Singh in his complain | What's the big deal about Tatra

delhi Updated: Apr 01, 2012 09:34 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times
Army Chief Gen VK Singh,DRDO,VK Saraswat

Army chief Gen VK Singh had set off a tremor on March 26 by claiming he was offered kickbacks for clearing the purchase of “substandard” Tatra trucks, but the entire government establishment has since then maintained the Czech-origin vehicles were of unmatched quality and design.

On Saturday, VK Saraswat, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief and scientific adviser to the defence minister, too countered Gen Singh, saying there were no complaints about the performance of the heavy-duty trucks that were inducted into the army in 1987.

“The Tatra is an outstanding truck. It has a very good cross-country capability and can move at good speeds,” Saraswat said.

Saraswat isn’t the first to refute Gen Singh’s charge that the Tatra trucks are of poor quality. Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML) chairman VRS Natarajan had on Friday said the defence PSU, which has supplied 7,000 trucks to the army so far, didn’t receive a single complaint from the force.

BEML supplied the trucks through a tie-up with Czech firm Omnipol Foreign Trade Corporation till 1997 and later in partnership with UK-based Tatra Sipox.

Gen Singh had alleged he was offered R14 crore by former Defence Intelligence Agency chief Lt Gen Tejinder Singh to clear the purchase of 600 "substandard" Tatra trucks. The same day, the defence ministry said there were no complaints about the vehicle's quality.

Singh also alleged the trucks were exorbitantly priced and lacked proper service facilities.

Defence minister AK Antony sanctioned a CBI probe into Tatra's procurement on February 21 on the basis of a complaint, more than a month before the army chief’s bribery allegation.

Questioning the quality of defence equipment is the easiest way to muddy any procurement, as it happened in the 1980s with the Bofors scam. But all questions about the gun were laid to rest during the Kargil war.

Until now, the ministry was buying Tatra trucks from BEML on nomination basis as the PSU is the only firm that complies with the army's qualitative requirements. A modification of these requirements will allow the government to take the competitive bidding route for awarding contracts in the future.

First Published: Mar 31, 2012 15:09 IST