Antony accused of favouring BEML

The whistle-blower who had shot off  a series of letters to President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Union minister Gulam Nabi Azad in 2009 seeking a probe into the alleged scam in the procurement of Tatra trucks for the Indian Army, made a fresh allegation against Defence Minister A K Antony on Friday.

N Hanumanthappa, president of All India Federation of SC/ST, Backward and Minorities Employees’ Welfare Association, said: “Antony, despite being aware of the matter approved BEML CMD Natarajan’s proposal to set up an unit in Palakkad, Kerala, so as to appease the voters in his state.”

The said complex, construction of which had begun in May 2010, was constructed within six months and the controversial Tatra trucks are produced there.

Although there is no concrete evidence to back his accusation, it assumes importance in the wake of Antony attracting criticism for not having acted against the complaint despite being appraised on it in 2009.

The series of letters by the whistle-blower had led to Azad writing to Antony on behalf of Sonia Gandhi, requesting “necessary action in this regard.”

Criticising Natarajan, he said: “It is also a shame to know that despite having the best companies in India, BEML struck the deal with a UK-based company dealing with advisory and astrology.”

Hanumanthappa said it was surprising that nothing was done despite the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) asking the ministry’s chief vigilance officer to formally look into the matter.

“An inquiry has been ordered into the matter only now, after the Army chief made the matter public. The CVC had in 2009 written to the MoD’s chief vigilance officer to look into the allegations and he had again sought the same in December 2011 following another letter that I wrote to the CVC. But nothing had happened,” Hanumanthappa said.

Terming Natarajan as the man behind the Rs 6,000-crore scam, Hanumanthappa said although one finished unit (truck) of Tatra was estimated to cost Rs 40 lakh, BEML sold it for Rs 1 crore. “The benefits also went to Tatra Sipox, a UK-based vendor,” he added.

Besides, he had also written a letter to the Minister of State in MoD, M M Pallam Raju, bringing to his notice several alleged shortcomings in the functioning of Natarajan.

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