After attacks, Afghan endgame seems more of a mirage


Do the latest attacks by the Taliban on government buildings, Western embassies and military bases across four provinces bear some resemblance to the dramatic attack on Kabul’s Intercontinental hotel in June last year? In fact the intercontinental attack was probably more telegenic – blazing flames, billowing smoke. Let us also not forget last September’s attack on the US embassy, then, as now, directed from construction blocks.

In these instances the message from Haqqani network based in Pakistan’s north-west was: look we’re still around. Dare you script scenarios for Taliban being in the power structure without us?

The earlier attack linked up with the arrest in Karachi in February 2010 of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Taliban commander who led the Quetta Shura and directed operations from Pakistan. The arrest was ordered because Baradar was engaged in conversations with the CIA which Pakistani intelligence chanced upon. In other words, neither the CIA nor Baradar had kept Islamabad in the loop on the talks which could have a bearing on the future power structure in Kabul. This has been something of an anathema for the Pakistan establishment.

And now talks with Taliban have been launched in Qatar, not quite Pakistan’s preferred rendezvous. Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai is huddled with US officials on the Strategic Document where the fine print is being read carefully by the skeptics on what, for instance, is the understanding on “night raids” to be carried out by Afghans with US troops playing a support role.

Americans have, in spells, been hated in Afghanistan, but over the years other hate objects had come into focus – Pakistan, for instance. But the burning of the Quran at the Bagram base, Marines urinating on dead Afghans, posing for pictures with mangled bodies, the gruesome murder in Kandahar of 16 people mostly women and children by “a group of US servicemen” according to the Chief of Operations of the Afghan National Army, Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi – all these have raised Anti Americanism to fever pitch. Americans insist only one serviceman was involved in the mindless massacre. In other words negotiating anything with Americans in an atmosphere of feverish Anti Americanism depletes whatever goodwill President Karzai has.

In these circumstances, Karzai has to prepare himself for the high table at the NATO summit on May 20 to 21, focused on Afghanistan. President Obama is determined to show the Chicago Meet as his successful management of the withdrawal process from Afghanistan. But how? Drawdown, reduce, withdraw are terms being used for what the US will do with its troops in Afghanistan. I doubt if a cogent withdrawal strategy can be given shape in a month when the Summit is due. The situation on the ground in Afghanistan, leave alone Pakistan, is in total disrepair.

The irony is that in a region of such noisy anti-Americanism, there is no regime which is actually interested in the US departing from Afghanistan, whatever the public postures.

President Karzai would have difficulty surviving in Kabul without US protection.

Iran would be happy to watch the Americans embroiled in crises and not, with pruned numbers, comfortable and settled in their bases. Would Pakistan like to lose its “frontline” status with the US depending on supply routes through its territory and those billions of dollars. On current showing, relations between Washington and Islamabad are hopelessly bad. Can they sort out the rules of engagement, a prohibition in unilateral military action which includes drone attack?

Russians too have tossed their hat in the ring. They are willing to open up Lenin’s birth place, Ulyanovsk, as a supply base for the Americans so that they remain pinned down in Afghanistan and end poppy cultivation in Helmand because Russia has become not just a transit route for drugs but also an end consumer. This could also be the Russian olive branch to the US for balance of power because Moscow probably feels uncomfortable playing second fiddle when Moscow and Beijing move in concert as at the UN recently.

Yes, there will be some withdrawal agenda discussed in Chicago but the real policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan will only be delineated when the new administration takes charge in Washington in November.

(Saeed Naqvi is senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Maharashtra RTI Rules Amendment tabled and passed


We had a tiny window of hope that the amendment in Maharashtra’s RTI rules would not be tabled in the assembly. This hope was because many of us (led by Julio Ribeiro and Narayan Varma) had formally approached the Chief Minister and opposition leaders in both Houses, and made submissions in writing. We had hoped that even if the amendment was tabled, it would be stalled by the Opposition parties due to continuous campaigning by our activist colleagues such as Anil Galgali and Bhaskar Prabhu.

But Tuesday was a sad day for RTI activists and information seekers in Maharashtra. Galgali, who on Tuesday met Mr Avrari (Under Secretary of General Administration Department – GAD) was informed that the rule changes had been passed in the state assembly. The gazette copy will be made available on April 30, Avrari said.

The original rules were modeled closely after the Central RTI Rules, and facilitated the use of RTI Act by the common man. The new rules curtail the use of the Act, and give the public information officer (PIO) unnecessary discretionary powers to restrict and harass the RTI user. These new rules will therefore increase the scope for conflicts and lead to an increased number of appeals.

Maharashtra’s new rules says:

  • Request for information must nor ordinarily exceed 150 words.
  • Request for information must relate to one subject matter only. If necessary, separate applications must be made if it relates to more than one.
  • Public Information Officer (PIO) must allow the person inspecting the documents to take a pencil only. All other writing instruments must be deposited with the PIO.

Our main objections:

  • THE GOVERNMENT ADDED THESE RULES SECRETIVELY without any discussion in the public domain. We did not come to know of this from any government source. We were informed by Advocate Vinod Sampat, who saw this notification in a publication he had picked up outside City Civil Court. There should have a public consultation of stakeholders, as mandated by Section 4(1)(c), which says, “Every public authority shall – publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public.”
  • THE 150-WORD RULE may handicap the majority of Maharashtra’s people – less educated people living in slums and villages – who lack the skills for drafting an RTI application within a word limit of 150 words. We also object to the arbitrary nature of this rule change. (By what process was the 150 word-limit arrived at? Why not 250 words? Or 10 words for that matter? Unless it is based on study and judicious reasoning, this rule is arbitrary.)
  • THE SINGLE-SUBJECT-MATTER RULE gives the PIO unnecessary discretionary powers. Different RTI applicants and PIOs may interpret “single subject matter” in different ways, and this will cause endless disputes and delays in getting information. For example: If an RTI applicant asks the Municipal Commissioner’s office for copies of complaints, and the papers showing action taken on them, relating to impure water supply in A, B and C wards. An uncooperative PIO can argue that this RTI application has three subject matters, as each ward is a separate “subject matter”. Another man in his position can argue that complaints are one subject matter, and the actions taken on complaints are a different subject matter. Sir, based on our common experiences, we anticipate that the PIOs and appellate authorities will be drawn into such hair-splitting, diverting their attention from the intent of the RTI Act.

Many states, many rules

Is Maharashtra the only state to have passed such restrictive rules? No. Similar rule changes have been passed in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, and attempts have been made in other states also, such as Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

What is objectionable is that many state governments and other competent authorities have framed rules that are against the letter and spirit of the Act. Two extreme examples are the state governments of Arunachal Pradesh and Orissa, which have invented bizarre reasons to put information beyond the common man’s grasp. The citizens of these states suffer from numerous disabilities while seeking information under the RTI Act.

Rules must always facilitate the use of the laws. It is unlawful to make RTI rules that restrict the use of the RTI Act. Competent authorities such as state governments, state legislatures and judiciary are empowered by Section 27 to “make rules to carry out the provisions of this Act”. The latest rules are against the spirit of rule-making. This is all the more surprising as Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was Minister-of-State (MOS) for DoPT, the central monitoring body for RTI Act 2005.

RTI activists across the country need to unitedly push for uniform rules that are in harmony with Central RTI rules as per the directions issued by DOPT in April 2011.

As long as RTI activists in different states do not support each other in the battle for information, state governments and other competent authorities will continue to frame RTI rules to hobble information seekers.

Also Read:

(Krishnaraj Rao is an RTI activist. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap.)

An Army wife’s prayer

You, VK Singh, are a game changer.

You are trying to change the ongoing game that certain ethically compromised people, including some in uniform and retired ones, have been playing for over a decade.

You are trying to ensure that the military Institution is given its due space as a loyal, intensely devoted organ of the country, while choosing to remain under civilian control as it should be, in any democracy.

You are a cleanser. The nation has failed to clean up even the Ganga, but you are cleaning up the Indian Army from where it needs to be cleansed – at the top level.

You are aware, as are many of us, that the moral fibre, professionalism, patriotism and spirit of the Army lies intact at the levels where these are actually required – our troops and junior and middle level officers – who comprise over 90% of the Army.

They spend their professional lives away from Delhi – Thank God.

The grass roots level of the Indian Army, and retired ex-servicemen like us, are with you.

May you continue to have the strength and courage you have already demonstrated in ample measure. You will need a good supply of both for future threats from those who have made India their Jagir. You need the blessings of all of us.

India is not known to honor the brave. Thankfully, now it is learning to do so. The Internet and modern technology will help people express their support for you. Most of the million plus soldiers and an equal number of ex-servicemen will rally behind you.

The rest of India, sick, tired and angry about the state of the Nation, will also rally behind you.

All honest politicians and bureaucrats, cutting across party lines, and hopefully some legal luminaries, will also start speaking up.

The rest are parasitical chameleons who will change their colours accordingly.

Democracy will be better served, the governance of our country will improve and the nation as a whole will gain.

Your clarion call is a historic sign among others for a bright future for India. Civil society will get a further boost to change the rot in the system. Let things get worse, if only to become better.

Did not some ancients predict that 2012 will be the beginning of a tectonic change for the better?

Rogues, beware! Your time is up! Correct yourselves or go visit dhams in the Himalayas.

In fact, stay on there as Himalayan caves are better than jails! India is no longer your sole property. Once all of you are sorted out, India’s external threats will be easier to handle.

Do not dare to stand between India’s rot of today and the very bright, glorious future.

(About the author: Chhanda Mukherjee, wife of retired Major General Dipak Mukherjee, is a proud patriot who likes to voice her opinion on Army issues. Major General Dipak Mukherjee (retd.) was an Infantry officer who has taken part in the 1971 war. He also commanded a battalion in Sri Lanka, a brigade in J&K during the Kargil conflict and a Division of counter terrorist forces. Chhanda has done MSc in Botany and BEd.  She is a teacher.)

More questions for Tatra, Ravi Rishi and Defence Ministry


The Tatra trucks scam beats every other scam known to this country. It is not the biggest in terms of money but in terms of the duration and the number of people involved, this scam beats every other scam. Also, it is not a one time scam but an ongoing one.

The scam did not commence in 1997 but dates back to 1986. For twenty five years it involved politicians, generals, bureaucrats and Public Sector Unit officers. And escaped detection!

The sheer number of people involved in the Tatra scam leaves little room for doubt that it is this deal which has upset those who are/were the beneficiaries and they have collectively conspired to oust the COAS General VK Singh on the date of birth issue.

It is in national interest that all those who were arraigned against him should be put under severe scrutiny for their links to the arms lobby and their assets along with that of their family made public. That includes the generals, past and present. In particular, those who set up the so called line of succession and the supporters of the succession theory.

Here are some of the vital unanswered questions related to this scam.

  • Is it true that invoices exist to show that Ravi Rishi was selling Tatra trucks to India for Rs 75 lakh while purchasing them for Rs 25 lakh and thereby making 200% profit? (CNN-IBN, Kindly note it was not BEML which was profiteering. At best the CMD VRS Natarajan was a partner in the loot)
  • Why did the government limit the investigation to the period of 1997 onwards? Why not 1986 when the deal was initially signed with OmniPol or Jan 1993 when Czechoslovakia split into two? Is it because even during the period of the deal with Omnipol Rishi was involved and was receiving commission which he was passing on to the powers that be?
  • Is it true that before 1997, Rishi was collecting kickbacks from OmniPol through bogus export bills raised by him on OmniPol? Was this kickback money received from OmniPol shared with Rishi through WEN Exports Pvt Ltd? Which politician has a stake in WEN Exports, and also Venus Projects  owned by Rishi?
  • In which bank located in Connaught Circus did these accounts exist through which the kickbacks were collected?
  • Who is the person related to an ex-Prime Minister of India who was both the beneficiary and go between of Rishi in India?
  • Who is the BEML officer for whose benefit an account had been opened in Habib Bank in Zurich, Switzerland by Rishi? And other similar beneficiaries who have helped him loot this country?
  • Why were the entire sale proceeds paid by BEML to Tatra Sipox in Britain sent to Liechtenstein by Rishi and not accounted for in Britain?
  • Why did the honest Defence Minister not act on the complaint forwarded by Gulam Nabi Azad on behalf of Sonia Gandhi? Did the complaint go to him? Who was responsible for putting the complaint on the back burner? The minister or the bureaucrat?
  • Why were two other complaints by insiders of BEML whistleblowers not acted upon by the Ministry?
  • What was it that surprised Antony which made him beat his forehead (as stated by COAS and confirmed by the Hon’ble Minister in Parliament)? Was it the fact of the bribe offer or the fact that the COAS too had come to know about the Tatra truck scandal?
  • Why did he not inform the COAS about the complaint forwarded by Sonia Gandhi? Was it because he did not know?
  • Why did he tell the General that such firms should be kept out while his Ministry had failed to do so even after receiving the complaint from Sonia Gandhi much earlier?
  • Is  Antony being manipulated by the bureaucrats in the Ministry who wanted the Tatra deal to continue because they were on the payroll of the arms merchant Rishi? Or is Antony shielding his political superiors?
  • Was it the bureaucrats and the corrupt former and serving Generals or Antony who wanted the tenure of the COAS to end one year in advance on the date of birth issue?
  • How many generals were involved in the scam? Who are the powerful serving and retired army officers who are on the payroll of the arms merchants who have conspired against the present COAS? How many of them have been lobbying against the General through the media?
  • Has Antony ever taken an independent stand on the date of birth of COAS or has he been merely endorsing the viewpoint of the vested interest and the Attorney General of India? Why could he not take a view on the basis of opinion of several ex-CJIs?
  • Antony needs to answer the question as to why he named the successor to the COAS without disposing his December statutory complaint as directed by the Supreme Court. Is he a captive hostage while taking key decisions? If not, he should make public the file by which the recommendation was made for the current COAS and finally approved.
  • Why was Brigadier (Retd) I M Singh transferred in 2003 for writing a letter inquiring into the Tatra deal and why was the letter withdrawn?Who were the persons involved in the transfer of Brig (Retd) Singh and why have the questions asked in 2003 not been answered till now?
  • Is it not true that Lt Gen (Retd) SJS Saighal was appointed as Chairman of Global Vectra owned by Rishi so that he would lobby through his serving brother HS Saighal (who was DG Army Aviation) to recommend placing an order of over Rs 2000 crore to Global Vectra for purchase of helicopters by the Army?
  • Who were the powerful people in Delhi who prevented action against VRS Natarajan when he was found to be involved in cheating, criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts during investigations by CID at Hyderabad in a joint venture with Midwest Granite? What was BEML doing in entering into a joint venture with a private granite company for winning mining rights for coal abroad?
  • Who is the 1979 batch Indian Foreign Service officer who had more than three dozen vigilance cases against him and who helped set up his international network of  profiteering from sale of armaments based on corruption?
  • Is it not true that Rishi benefited from former Joint Secretary (Defence) and now suspended IAS officer Arvind Joshi, from whose house Income tax sleuths had seized Rs. 3 crore in cash and papers showing assets to the tune over Rs. 300 crore in 2010. From where did this Rs 300 crores come and that of his relatives having another Rs 200 crores? Are these money for partnership in the crime of looting the country or held as benami for Rishi?
  • And what is the story behind the stake of Rishi in India Exposition Mart Ltd, touted by the PM as an ideal example of PPP (private public partnership)?

The author has filed a complaint with Serious Fraud Office whose efficiency and treatment of informers is in sharp contrast to that of India’s CBI.

Rishi, though a British national, would like to stay back in India and will not like to go back to Britain as he too will have great faith in the legal process of India. Quotrocchi stayed in for a long time after Bofors, and so has Ashok Chauhan of Amity International who has an Interpol Red corner alert against him.

Who is doing the media management for Ravi Rishi? How much has Rishi spent on the media managers? Is that the reason that the entire focus of media reporting is on BEML and Natrajan?

(Arun Agrawal is the author of the book Reliance: The Real Natwar. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

Cool Syria to focus on Afghanistan in Chicago


Let me jump the gun on the global pundits. The great charge on Damascus is about to be called off, sorry toned down.

Why is the Syrian story taking this turn? For several reasons.

There is a tide in the affairs of nations. This tide, for good or bad, was speedily taken at a flood in Libya primarily by the French and the British, egged on by Qatar and Riyadh. The Americans came late but Hillary Clinton will be remembered for her remark in Tripoli. “I came, I saw and he died.” This, when Qaddafi had been murdered in the most ghastly fashion, sodomized by a knife, then shot. Or was he shot first?

Whatever Libya’s future (who cares)? The expedition was launched with lightening speed. NATO, which has sent a punitive bill to Riyadh and Qatar, did a fine job, quite worth the rental.

In the flush of victory at Tripoli, the victorious gang thought of replicating it in Damascus. The two situations could not have been more dissimilar.

The ruling cliques in the Arab world hated Qaddafi because he taunted them as poodles of the West. It was this kind of bluster that caused the Saudi King to scream at him across the table at an Arab summit at Sharm el sheikh: “Kalb”, which means dog!

Qaddafi was unique because he was the only point of convergence for Riyadh and Teheran. The Iranians disliked him for two reasons: he competed with them, often upping the ante on the Palestinian issue which the Iranians would rather keep as their monopoly. Above all, the Iranians nursed a grievance on the disappearance of Shia cleric Musa Sadr over Libya in the 80s.

After Ben Ali and Mubarak had fallen and Yemen and Bahrain were in convulsions, king Abdullah of Saudi Arabia returned after medical treatment in Europe and saw an unrecognizably altered neighbourhood. He was furious that Ben Ali and Mubarak had been allowed to go and swore that not a single monarchy or Sheikhdom will be allowed to fall, “peoples power” be damned!

At this stage the Israeli stand was: “since 1973 our border with Syria has been the most peaceful.”

It was Riyadh, now holding Qatar’s had as well, which persuasively developed two plots.

Israel’s Iranian focus will dim unless the Iran, Syria, Hezbullah, Hamas nexus is broken by wrenching Syria away from the quartet.

Secondly, Shias had to be projected as a threat to mobilize the Sunni Arab world on a sectarian plank. Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Kuwait all had huge Shia populations. Iraq and Bahrain had overwhelming Shia majorities.

In this theme too there was a Syrian angle. Although the Alawis and Christians formed only 20 percent of the population (the majority being Sunnis), they formed the bulk of the army. In their belief (very tepid belief because primarily they are secular Baathists) they are more like Shias and this has been something of an irritant to the majority Sunnis which occasionally erupts as in Hama in 1982 and stoked elsewhere more recently.

In the absence of a Security Council Resolution, the strategy of lending external support to malcontents in the country has proved time consuming. Also, French, Qatari and Turkish officers have been held well inside Syrian territory, much to the embarrassment Paris, Ankar and Qatar.

Notice, there is total silence from French officials. In the GCC, the Saudis are probably not exerting as much pressure. Otherwise, why would the UAE intercede with Damascus for the release of Qataris.

Lack of progress on the Syrian front has been accompanied by the anti-Iranian rhetoric rising to a crescendo. The “attack Iran” chant has one effect on the GCC Sheikhdoms: buy more defensive weapons, at the same time seek back channel peace.

Gradually, it may well be sinking into the Riyadh establishment that continuous TV attention on Syrian protesters could well be the cause of aggravated public anger in Bahrain and oil rich, Shia dominated areas like Qatif in Saudi Arabia.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent meetings in Tehran with supreme leader Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad must be seen to be bringing down regional temperatures.

Remember, it is President Barack Obama’s political requirement to have a calm Middle East so that he can keep a steady gaze on Afghanistan, the country on which the NATO Summit in Chicago must focus in May in ways that it is useful for his re election in November.

(Saeed Naqvi is senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Fitting reply to Vectra on Tatra deal

Vectra Group, via its recent press release, has refuted allegations of wrongdoing leveled against its owner Ravi Rishi and Tatra Sipox (UK).

Click here to read the group’s press release…

Arun Agrawal, author of the book ‘Reliance: The Real Natwar’ and a prolific writer on issues of public interest, has rubbished the facts claimed by Vectra. In a point-by point-rebuttal, Agrawal states that the real facts about the Tatra deal are far worse.

Below is his reply to the press release of the company.

Dear Mr Nair and Mr Diliep Singhji,

Kindly refer to the allegation versus facts issued by you on behalf of the company Vectra and its ultimate owner Ravinder Rishi.

You are right, though unwittingly: The real facts are far worse than what you have stated in your allegation column.

You have deliberately understated the allegations! More so on the figure of the loot. Who said that you looted only Rs 750 crores. The figure is Rs 4,000 crores.

Your explanations to the allegations described as facts are lies and they are not even clever lies. Your boss Ravinder Rishi along with your Indian cohorts, including the Moradabad exporter’s group, make the mistake of thinking that all the people can be fooled all the time. And that everyone is for sale.

Mr Nair, let me enlighten you that in the 2G scam, though Anil Ambani did not go to jail, his three senior employees did. You would do well not to speak out of turn and create a smokescreen lest you suffer a similar fate and are made the fall guy by your boss and the CBI.

Having exchanged pleasantries let us address the allegations seriatum:

Allegation: Tatra Sipox is a trading company and not the original manufacturer of Tatra trucks. Thereby the deal with BEML violates Indian procurement rules.

Response: The truth is worse than the allegation. The fact is that Tatra Sipox is not even a trading company. Why don’t you produce the balance sheet and the profit and loss account of Tatra Sipox from 1997 onwards? Reveal the payments that were made to Tatra Sipox by BEML through irrevocable non-transferable Letter of Credit through SBI’s London Branch.

  • Tell us why the payments made by BEML to Tatra Sipox are not reflected in the books of Tatra Sipox?
  • Why does Tatra Sipox submit abbreviated accounts which do not require audit?
  • To whom were the payments made by BEML assigned to?
  • To which company in the tax haven of Liechtenstein?
  • Have you heard of Deswa Holding Establishment?
  • In whose pocket did the profits evaporate?
  • In which country did you declare the ill-gotten loot as profits and pay taxes on the loot? Or did not show the profits because bribes had to paid from the loot?

The company Tatra Sipox is registered for carrying on spiritual, religious and social purpose, including marriage and dating services. Was it because corruption and bribing too are related to making proper alliances with the right people?

As for your explanation of the company being promoted by a Slovakian, why did you not name him? Is he not one Jozef Majky? Was he not jailed for 22 months for defrauding people in Slovakia, like your owner Ravi Rishi who defrauded people in  Czech Republic, Britain and India.

You have stated that both OEMs (original equipment manufacturer) appointed or were part of Tatra Sipox (UK). Produce the documents.

  • Was Tatra Sipox a subsidiary of either of the companies or were the expenses of marketing of Tatra Sipox paid by either or both the companies?
  • Did Tatra Sipox work on a fixed commission from Tatra A.S. as other car/truck dealers do?
  • Is it not a fact that Tatra Sipox deliberately misused the name Tatra and took orders as a self-appointed middleman.

As for Tata Sipox which supplies technical support, provides transfer of technology to BEML and develops new products on behalf of both factories, name the engineers on the pay roll of Tatra Sipox, their qualification and the type of innovative technology supplied in the last 13 years to either BEML or Tatra a.s. What patents have you filed for?

The fact is Ravi Rishi does not have any know-how but only has know who; through bribes and kickbacks. Photographs in The Pioneer are not his only connections. Other photographs with the famous Moradabad exporters are also doing the rounds.

Your assertion that there is no violation of the defense procurement rules as “firstly, Tatra Sipox (UK) sold to BEML and not directly to the MoD and secondly is an authorized vendor”, admits to the fact that you were a middleman to BEML but not to MoD.

The argument that Tatra Sipox can be a middleman to BEML and the policy of no middle man was only applicable to MoD is hog wash.

First, to make the argument you concede that you were a middleman. Second, BEML is a government company to which Article 12 applies and is treated as a STATE. BEML too cannot entertain middleman. It too has to deal with principle to principle. (P-P and not P-M where M is for middleman)

Is it not a fact that Rishi had VRS Natrajan appointed to the post of CMD of BEML by paying hefty bribes (with a tenure of over ten years) and immediately thereafter renegotiated the deal/MoU which was not due for renewal to exclude strategic parts like the gear box, axles from indigenization?

Is it not a fact that in the original agreement with OmniPol  a sum of three crore was paid by India for complete transfer of technology? Just as BEML paid for technology transfer in the case of Bofors. For your benefit, here is the abbreviated accounts of Tatra Sipox filed with UK authorities which substantiates the facts mentioned above.

Capital of 15,000 pounds and total shareholder funds of 2.5 lakh pounds (Rupees Rs 2 crore) in thirteen years of loot.

Allegation: Tatra trucks were sold three times its original price of Rs 40 lakhs, which led to an estimated loss of Rs 750 crore to the exchequer.

Fact according to the representative of Rishi to refute the allegation: TS (UK) sold to BEML. The price between BEML (a defence PSU) and the MoD is not controlled by Tatra. Additionally, at no time full trucks were sold to BEML. The parts and components sold to BEML were as per normal company prices.

Response: While one appreciates your smartness in underplaying the allegation of your boss being just a a petty crook for an amount  Rs 750 crores, the fact is that he stole Rs  4000 crores from the poor people of the country. This is how and why:

  • For a CKD  of a 6X6 truck, BEML paid Rs 85 lakhs to you, another Rs 10 lakhs for spares and kit. BEML fabricated the body etc for Rs 10 to 15 lakhs and sold it to the MoD/Army for Rs 1.30 crore. Rishi milked the poor country for Rs 50 lacs per truck. Multiply it with 7000 plus trucks, spares and kits over the years and the figure would be a neat Rs 4000 crores.

Instead of being clever why don’t you reveal  the sale price  received per CKD kit  from BEML and the purchase price paid by you to Tatra a.s. of Czech republic and clear your name? Do not insult the intelligence of crores of Indians who have been to school and were taught: Profit = (Sale Price – Cost Price) X Quantity.

Your arguments implying that it was BEML that was profiteering and raking in the moolah may be bought by some of India’s seasoned journalists because they do not know or know too well, but will not cut ice with a 15-year-old kid who has been to school and done the above sums.

I would request you to make public the above figures to prove that there has been no wrongdoing on your part. You will not do it because you have not only cheated the Indians, but also the Czechs and the British by not accounting for the turnover and paying taxes on it.

Allegation: Lt Gen Tejinder Singh was lobbying for Tatra trucks and offered bribe to COAS.

Fact according to your press release: No member of Vectra has ever met this individual and he has never worked with Tatra nor been given any mandate on behalf of Tatra.

Response: Are such mandates ever given in writing or contract signed? If you go across the length and breadth of the country where bribes are paid for anything or everything, you will find touts who orally assure you that your work will be done for a bribe to the government official and a commission to him (the tout). You pay him after the work is done.

  • How was this case any different except that to gain access to a COAS you needed a retired Lt General? Where is the question of giving a mandate?
  • Why doesn’t the Lt General disclose the pretext he used to approach the COAS and why the recommendation of his post-retirement post did not fructify or why he was never given a second appointment by the COAS?

The fact is that you have been paying off the dishonest officers in the army to get your work done but this time the file was struck with the COAS who happened to be a honest man. That the COAS reported the matter to the Minister, a fact acknowledged by the Minister, and that he and the Minister ensured that your loot comes to an end is sufficient proof on the contentious matter.

Incidentally Brigadier Inder Mohan Singh, a whistleblower, who raised his voice against this shady deal was mysteriously transferred.

Here is an excerpt from the story published by Firstpost:

And according to an Army whistle blower, Brigadier (Retd) Inder Mohan Singh, asking questions with regards to the BEML – Sipox deal was a big no-no.

The Brigadier said that he wrote in to ask for details of the price of the trucks, and for copies of the transfer of technology agreement in 2003. The very next day, he had a surprise visitor waiting in his office.

“At 9 o clock, when my office had barely opened, a BEML officer was sitting in my office,” Brig IM Singh told CNN-IBN. “He said, ‘Sir, marwadiya sabko’ (You’ve killed everyone).”

Asked what he meant, the visitor confided: ‘The letter you faxed yesterday will create a lot of trouble.”

If anything, it was Brig IM Singh who found himself in trouble. His letter, making enquiries about the deal, was cancelled, and he was transferred out of the Equipment Branch.

And an excerpt from the story published in Outlook Magazine:

Brig I.M. Singh tells Outlook how he was hounded out of the Master General Ordnance branch for initiating inquires into BEMLs functioning.

I was posted to MGOs branch in April 2003 and my portfolio included management of in-service equipment relating to vehicles, including the Tatras. As part of this I visited the BEML sometime in mid-’03. What I saw was that BEML is only a conduit, getting semi-knocked down vehicles which after some fitting of nuts and bolts were supplied to the army. This job could be done at our base workshops servicing the Tatras.

I am sure the job of getting Brigadier Singh transferred was done through a serviceman without any mandate. Do not give lessons to the country on the fundamentals of bribing. Everyone knows how the system works.

Allegation: Despite being sold to the Indian Army for long, the trucks were not indigenized enough (Tatra vehicles are still left-hand drive).

Facts according to your press release:Actually 60% of the truck is now indigenized.  Furthermore the 4×4 and 6×6 are RIGHT HAND DRIVE. The 10×10 and 12×12 were specifically designed for India’s missile program by Tatra. Members of Tatra Sipox (UK), Tatra and the DRDO were involved over several months to create this unique engineering product – the first of its kind in the world for on road/off road application. The 8×8 truck was never made a right hand drive; because of the small irregular demand cycle by Indian Armed Forces would not have justified the heavy investment needed to change the technical dynamics of the truck.

Response: When did the trucks become right hand drive? For how long were they left hand drive? How many trucks are left hand drive and how many right hand drive? No country with traffic keeping to the left will accept left hand trucks for its army. You sold left hand drive trucks and imperiled the life of the army truck drivers.

Remember, army truck drivers may not be very educated but have great common sense. One of them is called Anna Hazare, who was a truck driver in the army and drove right hand drive trucks during his time. Let him not know your story. Otherwise he will sit on a fast and get you all behind bars for having betrayed the Indian Army.

As for indigenization, reveal the proportion in terms of money and not in terms of components, where an axle is one component and so is a nut a component. The break up given above shows that Rs 90 lakhs is paid per truck to you.

The remaining two points raised in your press release are not worthy of response.


Arun Agrawal

(Arun Agrawal is the author of the book Reliance: The Real Natwar. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)