Desperate to get rid of the 'taint' of Tatra scam, the ministry of defence is planning to rename the high mobility trucks to get back into business in the country.
Tatra, the all-weather trucks are being used to carry Indian Army's strike-power, were surrounded by controversy after former army chief General VK Singh alleged that there was an attempt to bribe him for clearing the purchase of 1,676 of the high-mobility trucks.
Subsequently, the CBI in April 2013 booked VRS Natarajan, chief of the Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) — the defence Public Sector Unit which manufacture these trucks in India. The BEML was the Indian partner of Tatra with UK-based Vectra Group.
After CBI probe, production of these Tatra trucks were stopped, as BEML was restricted to do business with Vectra Global. Production of Tatra was 40% indigenous and the reamining 60% was dependent on import from Vectra.
"Since 2012, BEML was restricted to import from Vectra. So, we decided to built it pure indigenous. But, we do not want continue with the 'tainted' name of Tatra. We decided to rename the home-made version of these trucks and will be called as only BEML heavy duty trucks,"said a senior BEML official.
BEML claims to relaunch six-wheeled-drive high-mobility vehicle and the eight-wheeled-drive high-mobility vehicles by early April this year.
The official told dna that ever since the decision for stopping the procurement of Tatra trucks from the UK-based company, the maintenance of the fleet of over 6,500 such trucks in India was adversely affected due to lack of spares and other parts.
An army official said entire strike-capability of Indian Army moves on these Tatra trucks. From BrahMos missile to Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launcher and the Smerch, field radars and mobile bridges, which helps moving tanks to cross canals or any other small water bodies are carried on these trucks.
A defence ministry official said, "It seems, BEML does not want to associate itself with the scam-ridden Tatra name."
Based on its experience in the Kargil war in 1999 and during Operation Parakram in 2002, the army decided to buy trucks with new parameters. And Tatra trucks emerged winner. Since then, army was using these truck.