NEW DELHI: Tatra trucks, over which there was a controversy, are likely to make a comeback into the Indian armed forces as the government is now planning to procure the vehicles directly from the company manufacturing them instead of buying through agent firms.
One of the agent companies selling the Tatra trucks to the Indian Army had come under cloud after former Army chief Gen V K Singh alleged that he was offered a Rs 14-crore bribe to clear a file related to the procurement of these vehicles, prompting the government to order a CBI probe into the issue.
The validity of a pact between Bangalore-based PSU BEML and UK- based Tatra Sipox got over on December 17. Now, the Defence Ministry is planning to procure the trucks from the original equipment manufacturer Tatra Truck Company in the Czech Republic, official sources told PTI here. As per the plans, the trucks would be procured by BEML from the Czech manufacturer, they said.
The sources said India had also held parleys with the company to buy it out for meeting the requirements of its armed forces but the manufacturer refused to sell it. Due to a hold on procurement of Tatra trucks from the UK-based company, the maintenance of the fleet of over 6,500 such trucks in India was getting adversely affected due to lack of spares and other parts. After the allegation was made last year, the government had decided to put on hold the procurement of the trucks pending the CBI inquiry. The ban on these heavy duty trucks had resulted in delay in the setting up of missile regiments for the army and the IAF.
The major programmes stuck related to the Pinaka multi- barrel rocket launchers, BRAHMOS supersonic cruise missile regiments for the army and the IAF, Swati weapon locating radars for the army and other major missile programmes of DRDO. The government, through its PSU BEML, had bought more than 7,000 vehicles from Tatra between 1986 and 2012. Of them, owing to special circumstances during 'Operation Parakram' in the wake of the 2001 terror attack on Parliament, nearly 1,950 vehicles were purchased between 1999 and 2002.
The Defence Ministry has already been offered trucks by Russian and Belorussian firms for replacing the Tatras, including the Volat trucks from Belarus which are used to carry strategic missile systems of the Russian armed forces. Tata Motors was also supposed to make a presentation to the Ministry on the issue of replacements for the multi-axle trucks. Facing shortage of trucks, the army has completed trials for two types of trucks -- a six-wheeled high-mobility vehicle and an eight wheeled high- mobility vehicle. The plan is to buy 1,239 units of the first type and another 255 of the second one.