Reported by Tejas Mehta, Updated: April 04, 2012 18:40 IST -NDTV
New Delhi: Has the whistle-blower in the Tatra truck scam gone underground fearing for his life? Since the Army Chief General VK Singh disclosed last week that he was offered 14-crores as a bribe to clear “sub-standard” trucks, a new surge of attention is being paid to the 7000 Tatra trucks that have been bought by the Army since 1986. Tatra is a Czech-manufacturer. It is owned by Vectra, a London-based company, which supplies parts to a defence-run public sector unit, BEML, based in Bangalore. The trucks are assembled at BEML and sold to the Army. Their performance and price have both been questioned by military analysts in the past, but it took General Singh’s statement about the bribe to prompt close scrutiny. A CBI inquiry is looking at how the trucks were sold in violation of rules – all defence equipment has to be bought directly from the manufacturer but Tatra trucks allegedly come to the Army via middleman.
The man who may have some answers to the many questions about Tatra trucks is SN Ashoka, a former Assistant General Manager in the Trucks Division of BEML. “Ashoka is the real whistle-blower in this scam. He worked for BEML and knows A to Z details of the scam. He feared for his life. For the past week we have not been able to get in touch with him,” says Dr Hanumanthappa, the President of the All India Federation SC/ST and Minorities Employees Welfare Association, Karnataka, who submitted a confidential report written by Mr Ashoka to Sonia Gandhi, Defence Minister AK Antony and President Pratibha Patil. In August 2009, Mr Ashoka wrote a memorandum to his boss, the Chairman of BEML VRS Natarajan. Mr Ashoka enumerated various charges of corruption against the Chairman in that note. One of the allegations he raised was that Tatra trucks were being bought with the use of agents or middlemen. Mr Hanumathappa submitted the report to the Prime Minister, Defence Minister and Sonia Gandhi. But he claims that no action was taken. “We have observed in the last few days suspicious movements around our office and home. There is an international mafia that is connected to this scam and we fear for our lives. We will seek police protection,” says Hanumathappa’s son Ananda Kumar in Bangalore.