Renewing the demand for Defence Minister A K Antony’s resignation,the BJP today said he was alerted about alleged manipulations by Tatra and its promoter Ravi Rishi in the trucks deal as early as in May 2008.
The BJP said its party MP from Jabalpur,Rakesh Singh,had written to Antony on May 12,2008 questioning supply of 6×6 Tatra trucks from BEML-Tatra,then at a cost of Rs 65 lakh each when the vehicle factory in Jabalpur,which manufactures heavy trucks and other vehicles for the Army,had said it could manufacture the same truck at a cost of Rs 30 lakh apiece.
Antony had sent a standard communique to Singh on May 30,2008 saying he was “having the matter looked into”. The Jabalpur MP later raised the issue in the Lok Sabha too alleging a Rs 3000-crore scam,when he failed to get any updates from the Defence Ministry.
We are questioning what prompted Antony to remain inactive on the issue, said BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar,addressing a press conference with Rakesh Singh here today. Even at that juncture,Ravi Rishi,the controversial owner of Vectra,which owns Tatra,had been negatively listed in the Eurocopter deal,which was mentioned in the 2008 letter by Rakesh Singh, Javadekar said.
Since he represented Jabalpur as a parliamentarian,Singh’s communication to Antony had been in the context of ensuring job security and employment creation at the vehicle factory in Jabalpur. Beginning with the manufacture of Shaktiman trucks that were synonymous with Indian army transportation,the mainstay of the Jabalpur factory now are the 5-7.5 ton Stallion trucks (with Ashok Leyland) and the 2.5 ton LPTA trucks (with Tata). Had the vehicle factory been given the contract to manufacture 6×6 trucks,it would have provided adequate work for the 4500 employees there,he wrote in his letter to Antony.
The MP had pointed out in his letter that the 6×6 trucks had been developed by the vehicle factory in Jabalpur jointly with Ashok Leyland,as per the specifications provided by the Indian Army,and had been cleared for induction by 2006. To this end,the vehicle factory had invested “large sums of money and resources in the development of the trucks”. However,the trucks were suddenly procured from BEML-Tatra by changing quality specifications and citing operational requirements,said Singh.
It is understood that certain vested interests are trying to bring in Tatra. Changes proposed in the technical parameters would eliminate competition and only favour Tatra. This will lead to price manipulation which in turn will lead to financial losses to the Armed Forces. All cost effective solutions must be considered on their own merit before resorting to such unfair practices to favour Tatra only at a great cost to the country,Singh wrote in his letter.