DNA newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing documents in its possession, that at a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in September 2008 (at which Antony and the then Army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor were present), Army authorities had raised the matter of the Tatra trucks’ inadequacy.
The minutes of that meeting record that Army officials said that Tatra vehicles “no longer met the operational requirements of the Indian Army,” the paper noted.
Army HQ revised the parameters for the new generation of trucks it needed: modern six-wheel-drive and eight-wheel-drive trucks with powerful engines. Such trucks would, in addition to transporting troops, be capable of carrying tanks, cranes and army engineering equipment, DNA noted.
Two Indian companies – Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland – were at that time developing their indigenous trucks.
Yet, Antony did nothing to ensure that trucks that conformed to the new parameters were inducted into the Army.
On Wednesday, Antony was forced on the defensive in Parliament when a BJP MP raised the issue and sought the Minister’s explanation. Claiming that the government had nothing to hide, Antony said that every procurement of the Tatra vehicles from 1986 onwards met with the requirements of the Army.
Antony also claimed that his ministry had never imposed any Tatra orders on the Army. But DNA reports today that even that claim is untrue. It noted that the defence audit wing, which comes under the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG), found in 2006 that orders for Tatra trucks were placed after considerable manipulation “to keep the production line of BEML alive”.
“If Antony were to go through the files, he would have noticed the several audit findings that point out Tatra trucks were imposed on the army many a time,” the newspaper reported.