25 February, 2021

No Generalisations Please

Despite the army chief’s bombshell, not every middleman is a crook

No Generalisations Please

In the mid-1980s, as a young army officer, I had occasion to ride in the Kolos Tatra vehicles in the dusty deserts of Rajasthan. Compared to the locally manufactured Shaktiman, the army’s 3-tonne workhorse, the ride in the Tatra was an absolute delight. Lost in the romantic world of soldiering, I had no idea that three decades later, this vehicle would be in the eye of a storm—the “bribery bombshell” dropped by army chief Gen V.K. Singh. Given our huge defence budget, a range of operational commitments and the absence an effective military-industrial complex, India remains a magnet for suppliers of defence equipment. Our psus—the private sector has been kept out—have failed to come up with state-of-the-art technologies. Instead, they import systems to stay afloat, like the Kolos Tatra.

The army chief was apparently offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore to renew the monopoly of the Tatra vehicles in the Indian army. This has raised a storm, and all ex-military men working with companies that have a stake in...

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