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Updated: December 9, 2011 00:38 IST

Antony orders probe into controversial Rs. 500-crore contract

    Vinaya Deshpande
    with Bureau inputs
Comment (24)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Defence Minister A.K. Antony has ordered the Army to begin an internal investigation based on <I>The Hindu</I>'s revelation that possible corruption in the procurement of Rs. 500-crore worth of equipment had compromised its ability to use satellite images of enemy troop movements and assets.
The Hindu Defence Minister A.K. Antony has ordered the Army to begin an internal investigation based on The Hindu's revelation that possible corruption in the procurement of Rs. 500-crore worth of equipment had compromised its ability to use satellite images of enemy troop movements and assets.

Army Headquarters orders investigation into leakage of documents to The Hindu

Defence Minister A.K. Antony has ordered the Army to begin an internal investigation based on The Hindu's revelation that possible corruption in the procurement of Rs. 500-crore worth of equipment had compromised its ability to use satellite images of enemy troop movements and assets.

Sitanshu Kar, Additional Director-General in-charge of media relations at the Ministry of Defence, told journalists on Thursday that Mr. Antony ordered the inquiry first thing in the morning, after meeting with officials.

Mr. Kar said he could not comment on who would carry out the investigation, and by when its findings were expected to be made.

The Hindu had reported on Thursday that the Army's image-analysis capabilities, which allow it to cull information of military relevance from satellite images, were hit by a controversial 2008 contract.

The contract relieved the supplier, Rolta, of its responsibility of providing periodic upgrades of the software — though the Army continued to pay crores of rupees to the company.

Documents obtained by The Hindu also established that the military officials involved in giving the contract to Rolta went on to work with the firm — raising fears of conflict of interest.

Highly placed military sources said the Army Headquarters had ordered a simultaneous investigation of how documents related to the contract were leaked to The Hindu.

Defence experts said The Hindu's expose pointed to serious problems in defence acquisition practices, which successive governments were reluctant to tackle head on.

Poorly conceived procedures

Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar, Director of the National Maritime Foundation and a former director of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, said the problem lay in poorly conceived bureaucratic procedures put in place after the Bofors scandal, which was exposed by The Hindu in 1987-1988.

“If the armed forces buy a lemon,” he explained, “it is obviously either because of incompetence or corruption. Now, though the post-Bofors system is ostensibly designed to prevent malpractices, in fact privileges incompetence and thus opens the floodgates to corruption.”

“What we really need is to create a cadre of young officers who are competent to make the kinds of highly technical judgments military acquisitions need today, not committees of bureaucrats with no specialist judgment,” he said. “Task force after task force have made thoughtful, well-considered recommendations to reform the defence acquisition system.”

‘Fast-track probe'

Brigadier (retd.) Gurmeet Kanwal, who heads the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, called for expeditious investigations into the allegations, saying delays had hurt the armed forces' ability to acquire necessary equipment. Firms found guilty of misconduct could be subjected to financial penalties, he said.

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I think what Mr.Kumar was implying is checks and balances has to be in place before issueing the purchase orders. I think that should be the case. Otherwise, as Mr.Kumar says the queries will go for ever and imposing severe penalties may never happen.

from:  KVR
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 22:34 IST

Very often retired Senior defence officers/senior bureaucrats handling equipment acquisition are appointed as 'liaison officers' with these foreign defence contractors/manufacturers and lobby hard on their behalf, with their erstwhile colleagues still in service as well as with key bureaucrats in the Defence Ministry. These foreign firms pay them handsomely for this so-called liaison work.
Senior defence officers/civilian bureaucrats handling such sensitive work should not be allowed to take up such lucrative jobs with these foreign firms, atleast for five years after their retirement.

from:  S.Suri
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 19:58 IST

A doubt I got after reading this is,how is it that we trust foreign
companies in such matters?A company which sells software may install
bugs and backdoors that would allow it to disable it at crucial moments.
India needs to rely more on DRDO and other defense research
organisations for such software. It is high time that India gets a
Public Sector Software company or at least promotes organisations such
as the CDAC.

from:  K.Srinivas
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 18:11 IST

Mr. Menon: I second your opinion. However, what is also needed is very strict procedures in place so that at least "corruption" or deliberate and intentional malpractice can be avoided. Pitfalls are nevertheless unavoidable (and should be foreseen) because even the armed forces comprise of humans! On the other hand, there may be some instances, especially in the armed forces, where some sort of compromise has to be done (because information is limited in the open market); as judged by the technical purchase team and the bureaucracy/ top brass.

from:  Padmakumar Rao
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 17:00 IST

Obviously Antony is keen to build up and protect his image of "good and clean politician". In fact those who have observed for paste few decades are figured out that Antony is good for nothing. Bending to power tactics and play innocent man - of course which are the properties of a useless figure - is his forte. He does not have the spine to do any thing to tackle the root of any issues.

from:  Ravishanker C N
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 15:22 IST

Mr. Kumar,: I like the idea conducting the probe before a crime is committed. Only issue is how do you that without crystal ball, have any ideas? This sort of thinking is what happens when you criticize everything and everyone. In reality, what needs to be done is severe penalties for corruption starting with mandatory sentence of 10 years in jail forfeiture of ill gotten money with interest even if it is in relatives name.

from:  Menon
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 14:31 IST

There are two revealing statements that makes me think if Mr. Antony is as clean as he is lead to believe or assumed by some-"Mr. Kar said he could not comment on who would carry out the investigation, and by when its findings were expected to be made." meaning either there is no plan/interest to carry it forward; or he is hoping to keep the lid on and he knew it all along, perhaps he is also party to it. Time will tell.
The other statement: "Highly placed military sources said the Army Headquarters had ordered a simultaneous investigation of how documents related to the contract were leaked to The Hindu." - Ah ha.. they want to catch the source who provides info. They think he is the real SOB. Lets catch him/her/them immediately. There is an action started - thats the message. So the people in the office of the "The HINDU" should not reveal the sources in order to keep the effort, of the cases that are under surveillance, active and alive.

from:  Jagjit Singh
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 13:34 IST

Usually people who indulge in this kind of corruption even in the cases of national interest, if not checked, will go on to commit bigger crimes
hiding behind the good name the Army has -- and eventually they degrade that very good name the Army has got in the minds of the people. These people need to be accurately identified from low level to high level and need to be handed out severe punishment so that it acts as a deterrent to any other bad apples in the Army.

from:  Yashwanth P
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 13:10 IST

Thanks for another expose. Corrupt and faceless bureaucrats and un-educated politicians have combined and looted the country. I agree with Ed Towers above and possibly the faceless bureaucrats / politicians conspire to grab at such options and create a loop hole to siphon off funds from govt coffers and perpetuate scams. Honest citizens are obliged and indebted forever to The Hindu for keeping interests of countrymen first. Ethics are at a preminum in this era of paid news etc.. and you are the only hope for this country. May god bless you to go on to breed more honest journalists and expose and educate the country. .

from:  subbanna
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 12:03 IST

clean image and being clean are two different things. Only the outcome
of this probe will show which of the two is correct. Anyway, one more
feather in UPA's cap!

from:  vin
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 11:35 IST

Well done Hindu! After ISRO scam on S-band in satellites it is one of the major scams involving security of our nation.The only remedy I have suggested as in earlier also that all documents and decisions in defence departments need to be brought in the open, may be under LOKPAL with appropriate guidelines.It has to be seen that the team under LOKPAL must not be connected with defence or some allied areas having commercial interest with defence.
It is the demand of the day for probity!

from:  Atis
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 11:23 IST

When I visited J&K state in 1990s, the Soldiers working on ground zero do not aware of high level corruption in defence ministry. I strongly believe, from Defence minister to his staff to every one in chain involved who ever touch that concerned file. If you think that minister is innocent/honest, its our foolishness. Thanks, Kumar

from:  Kumar Pandruvada
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 11:02 IST

Hindu seems to specialize in unearthing possible corruption in the Army purchases.They did this in Bofors which was less number of in crores many years ago.Even this 500 crores is small compared 2G case.We hope this case would not go down in history as another unproved one.Of course we would know the result after 30 or 40 yrs.

from:  Doodu
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 10:35 IST

This probe should be done before and not after the equipment were purchased. Our defense has to put up with an inferior product? What will you do if the outcome of the probe is that if somebody made big money? By the time you finish the enquiry he or she would have retired or lose the next election and after that everything goes under the carpet. As a minister what have you been doing all this time? What the defense administration and IAS officers are doing? This type of probe should be finished in a month and the culprit including the decision makers should be hanged in public for compromising the country’s security.

from:  Kumar
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 09:22 IST

You did it again!! Congratulations! Brought attention to something that COULD be terribly wrong. There are two dailies that I won't miss reading: The Hindu and The Guardian. Both share the same values in journalism. Please inform all your readers (and everybody else) with continuous follow-up. I wonder where and how it will go.

from:  Roy M. Ramavarapu
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 08:40 IST

Mr. Antony has not enough courage to prevent incompetence and corruption. He may resign from his office as he did in the case of Sugar scam.

from:  Muhiyadheen
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 08:09 IST

Mr. Antony has not enough courage to prevent incompetence and corruption. He may resign from his office as he did in the case of Sugar scam.

from:  Muhiyadheen
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 08:01 IST

Indian armed forces has corrupt officers at every level. Instead of patriotism and loyalty, the officers have selfish attitude and indulge in indiscipline and corrupt practices. The juniors officers elope with the wives of senior officers. Because of these, the lower ranks were denied their privileges like annual/casual leave, concessional travel, etc.

from:  Velumani
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 05:14 IST

As far as I know, Mr Antony is one of the uncorrupted and a man of honor. Whatever he does will come to good.

from:  Sameer
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 04:02 IST

The people should thank the Hindu for exposing an alleged scam in the acquisition of electronic warfare equipments for the Army and also the Defence Minister for his quick reaction in ordering an enquiry into that deal after seeing the report in the Hindu. If the enquiry substantiates what the Hindu has reported, then it will cast a very serious doubt in the minds of the people about our full prepardness as quite often declaimed by our Generals, in the event of a war thrusted upon us. What the Internal Audit System in the Defence Ministry is doing? How this particular irregularity escaped it's notice? Or was it intentionally suppressed from reaching the higher authorities? If the Defence Minister were to depend upon other agencies like Newsmedia to know what is happening in his ministry especially in respect of acquisition of hardwares for the Army, then nothing would prevent the Nation from concluding that some dangerous elements are lurking in the Ministry to compromise our security.

from:  T.Sathyamurthi
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 03:13 IST

Well done 'The Hindu' in national interest. The problem in India is our budget is increasing day by day due to software exports, industry growth etc. but we do not have any innovative ideas as to how best to spend it properly for development so that we get good returns and thus, eliminating poverty. Super efficient managers must be inducted into the system to improve fiscal spending, banking and other operations and inefficient & corrupt must be punished.

from:  Vyas K Susarla
Posted on: Dec 9, 2011 at 01:26 IST

A.K. Anthony has clean image and he is not going to allow corruption on his watch.

from:  Menon
Posted on: Dec 8, 2011 at 23:36 IST

India should develop own satellite software. There are many consultants in this case off-shore in reverse who could help. To depend on foreign sources with India's brainpower is inconceivable to me. It is simply a matter of funding such a project and getting the proper people and strategies to obtain foreign consultants and national development team. The effort needs to be managed and not simply turned over to a local Indian firm. Many US companies have update license/royalty provisions in contracts. They do this for added revenues. The fact Rolta provided modified software as client specification means the original software provided by the US company would not necessarily be compatible with the modified version unless the US company took into consideration the areas modified and updated software with those updates as part of new versions. This is highly unlikely because there would be too many versions. It sounds like ignorance on the part of US supplier to Rolta and now it becomes Rolta's full responsibility. I was involved in such ventures and speak from experience. Could this be the same Rolta I did business with in the 1980's?

from:  Ed Towers
Posted on: Dec 8, 2011 at 23:36 IST

Antony is seen as a good and clean politician. He has to cleanup and change the defence ministry's equipment ordering system. There should be public notification - atleast in defence ministry website, whenever any purchase about 1 crore takes place.

from:  J Kumar
Posted on: Dec 8, 2011 at 22:33 IST
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