The defence deals in India are always a murky affair. The deals that run into billions of dollars and are a fair fishing ground for officials and middle men to make a killing in terms of kickbacks. These amount to millions of dollars and are going ever since India became free in 1947.
The muck came to the fore in the famous Bofors deal during the time of Rajiv Gandhi. At that time it was rumored that the Sweedish manufacturer of Bofors guns had paid Rs 60 crores to middle men and teh name of the prime minister himself was freely mentioned in private as a reciepent of the kickbacks. Later there were allegations on this account, but Rajiv was murdered by a LTTE terrorist and the matter died down.
Once again a murky deal has surfaced. The army chief general VK Singh has in an interview mentioned that he had been approached by another Lieutenant General with a bribe offer of Rs 14 crores to clear substandard trucks for the army. The trucks go by the name of Tatra and are specialist vehicles. It appears the shelf price of the truck is Rs 40 lakhs, but the army contracted them for Rs one crore each. The deal gets murkier when you realize that the deal was routed through BEML, a governmnet of India public undertaking.
Obviously the trucks that entered the army 7 years back must have lined the pockets of many officials in BEML as well as the defence ministry and the army. The matter surfaced in parliament and many MP’s questioned the conduct of general VK Singh himself, in that he had known about the deal a year and a half back , yet he did not pursue the matter. He did bring it to the notice of the Defence minister AK Antony, but he also let matters drift till this explosive interview by the army chief.
The CBI is now inquiring into the matter, but one can be sure that the matter like the other deals will die a natural death. The CBI inquiry is too late and after the horse has bolted. But there are dark hints that the army chief has the offer of Rs 14 crore on tape and that could put the General who offered him the bribe in the soup.
The indian defence establishment is riddled with controversy and murky deals and kick backs. The foreign manufacturers are a party to these bribes as the value of these deals is so high, that giving a few millions to clinch a deal is chicken feed for these multinationals.
The Indian state is passing through critical times and one is disheartened at the type of leadership provided. The present government of Sardar Manmohan Singh must be complimented on its ineptitude. This is the period that has seen the maximum number of underhand deals in which cabinet ministers have taken part. Manmohan Singh reminds me of the Roman emperor Nero who fiddled while Rome burned. The sad part is that there may be no second chance for ManMohan singh, who will be dammed by history. Perhaps it doesent matter to him as all he is interested in is to sit in the PM’s chair. God save India.