New Delhi, March 30 (IANS) Stung by army headquarters' snide remarks again Tatra trucks, defence public sector BEML chief V.R.S. Natarajan Friday hit out at its detractors, saying he felt "very sad" that the vehicle is being targeted despite being the only such in the world and on which the whole army's strategic assets move.
BEML chairman and managing director Natarajan who was addressing a press conference at the defence exposition here, said he had during the 10 years at the helm of the defence public sector undertaking (DPSU) not received "even a single complaint" against Tatra trucks from the army.
He also declared that BEML was not dependent on Tatra trucks for being profitable and that its business in the rail, mining, aerospace and other sectors were good enough for its business.
"I feel very sad. We have gone to great lengths to do national service. There has never been even a single complaint against Tatra," Natarajan said when asked to comment on the army headquarters' recent remarks that the trucks were "sub-standard".
"Tatra is the only such all-weather, all-terrain heavy vehicle technology in the world. It is hence superior to other trucks, which can only carry a maximum of 15 tonnes. The whole of the army's strategic assets move on this vehicle," he said.
"BEML is not my father's property. It is government's property and we are doing national service," he said, claiming that the Tatra truck's engines that BEML currently is ready to supply is compliant to Euro Three standards.
"We went to great lengths to supply Euro Three standards to the army. In fact, in one order for 288 vehicles, we lost Rs.20 crore so we could meet the requirements of the army," he said.
Regarding the complaint from Dr. D. Hanumanthappa, president of the Karnataka wing of All India Federation of SC/ST/Backward Classes and Minority Employees Welfare Association, who wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi in 2009 on BEML not dealing with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of Tatra vehicles, Natarajan said the marketing firm with which they had a tie was part of the OEM, as is the norm in Europe, and that there was no violation of the defence procurement regulations on the matter.
To a question on the price of each Tatra truck being Rs.1 crore, whereas its competitor sold trucks for Rs.40 lakh a vehicle, Natarajan said: "Superior technology will definitely cost more and the price is justified."
"You will not get a Benz car at the cost of an Ambassador," he said.
Natarajan said it was a known fact that BEML does provide maintenance and service for the Tatra vehicles it supplies to the army only in the first year after delivery and that from the second year, the army does the servicing internally.
The army headquarters had claimed in a press release that Lt Gen (retired) Tejinder Singh had offered a bribe to the army chief on behalf of Tatra vehicles to clear an order for 600 vehicles. The army chief, however, did not name the officer in his media statements, though Defence Ministry A.K. Antony did so in the Rajya Sabha, while making a statement on the controversy.