Tatra, corruption, snooping: Army Chief tells all

The Army chief has pointed out flaws in acquiring Tatra trucks from UK-based Vectra group, saying that the Indian Army had paid more than it should have and despite acquiring the trucks since 1980s no infrastructure had been created to maintain them.

In a freewheeling interview that ranged from allegations of snooping on the Defence Minister, corruption in the Indian Army, his doubts on the acquisition of the Tatra trucks, to modernisation of the defence force Army chief VK Singh laid all bare in his recent interview with Hindi magazine Chauthi Duniya.

The interview has been translated by the Indian Express.

Tatra trucks, corruption and defence acquisitions

The Army chief, who had not made any statement in any public forum against the Czechoslovakia-made Tatra trucks has pointed out that there were flaws in the acquisition process of the all terrain vehicles which needed rectification.

Tatra, corruption, snooping: Army Chief tells all

General VK Singh pointed out that despite acquiring the trucks since 1980s there was no infrastructure to maintain them. Reuters

The Army chief spoke about the now famous meeting with a former army official in which he was offered a bribe, shock which prevented him from taking action and the Defence Minister's holding of the head when told of the incident.

Following the airing of this snippet of the interview, a CBI probe had been initiated into the allegations of the Army chief being offered a bribe and yesterday General Singh had sent a formal complaint to the investigating agency.

However, the Army chief has also pointed out that they had been obtaining the Tatra trucks from a subsidiary which had resulted in the prices of the vehicles being higher than expected.

"We have about 7,000 such trucks. No infrastructure was created for their maintenance. Any company, say Tata, will have a service centre for its trucks. Your truck can be serviced there. It was not done. This was a fault that should have been rectified earlier, that we have tried to do so now," he said.

The Indian Army has asked for the servicing of the 7,000 trucks already acquired but they had to get crew from Czechoslovakia, and India should have had its own trained personnel for it, General Singh said.

Allegations of snooping on Defence Minister

The Army chief believes the news reports were a "concocted story" that was carried to malign the image of officials.

Reports alleged that a routine surveillance of Defence Minister AK Antony's office caused alarm when they suspected the office was 'bugged'. However, the government and Indian Army had denied the reports.

According to General VK Singh the army and the Intelligence Bureau had no account of vehicles being stationed in Delhi and their investigations had revealed that some retired army personnel were giving information to the media.

"Some of them have connections with foreign arms suppliers. Who said what is now known but I know that there is a link there," Singh said.

Following reports of 'bugging', the army had issued a press release alleging the involvement of Lt General (retired) Tejinder Singh and stating he had offered a bribe to the Army chief. The former army official has taken the Army chief and four other officials to court alleging defamation.

Date of Birth controversy

The Army chief said that the Supreme Court had already formulated a rule on matters related to age and it was applicable to all, including him. But he admitted he was not aware of the logic used when not taking any action his plea.

"As for the retirement, I had stated earlier that my tenure was fixed till May 31 by the government, and I will retire on May 31. The fight was not over the tenure, but for a principle," he said.

The Sukna scam

The Army chief said he had supported the Defence Minister's directions for a probe against army officials who had transferred 71 acres of land but it had resulted in differences between him and a predecessor General Deepak Kapoor.

"I have always had good relations with everybody. Perhaps there were some differences with General Kapoor (then Army Chief) on the Sukna issue as General Avadesh Prakash (then military secretary) was involved,"  he said.

Lt Gen (retired) Avdesh Prakash was found guilty on three counts in the scandal by an Army court.

Anti-Naxal operations

General Singh said he was happy the Home Minister had accepted the army's recommendation that defence forces should not be used in the battle against the insurgents.

He said they had pointed out to the government that the fighters were not demanding a seperate country but were fighting for their own rights which could be ensured by the civilian government.

Read the complete interview here

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Updated Date: Apr 11, 2012 10:18:33 IST

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