NEW DELHI: The Tatra trucks being supplied to the Indian Army are obsolete, running on fuel-guzzling old engines with mechanical transmissions that are years behind the rest of the world, Army sources said. The details are believed to be part of Army chief General V K Singh’s inputs to the CBI.
The severe shortcomings would be a key part of the CBI’s inquiry into Gen Singh’s allegation that he was offered Rs 14 crore bribe to order a fresh batch of “sub-standard” Tatra trucks. One of the key focus of the CBI is to find out if bribes and other inducements were offered by Tatra Sipox (UK) owned by Ravi Rishi to ensure that Army continued to buy these obsolete trucks. The agency is also trying to ascertain whether it was the reason why Tatra enjoyed a monopoly for the past 25 years in truck supply to the Army.
With CBI investigations into the scandal picking pace, many new facts are emerging from the Army about how the entire contract for the all-terrain trucks were so biased in favour of the suppliers. As a result, there has been no major upgrade of its 1970s engine, except for it being made Euro II compliant in 2008.
Ever since Bharat Earth Movers Limited ( BEML) signed its first contract in 1986 for buying trucks,Tatra AS of Czech Republic has primarily supplied the T-815 family of trucks to India. T-815 was developed in the early 1980s. According to those in the know, the only noticeable change made to the T-815 trucks is the upgrade of its engines to Euro II compliance. The engines of T-815 trucks remain ‘air cooled’, which are bulky and protrudes into the cabin space, as against ‘liquid cooled’ engines that are more modern, compact and more efficient.
The ‘air cooled’ engines are low on power and have poor mileage. “Nobody seemed to have bothered about the technological transformations that have taken place in the automobile industry,” an officer said about the fact that Army continues to use the same T-815 trucks even today. The T-815 trucks are fuel guzzlers. A truck that can carry 12 tonnes runs just 4 km on a liter of fuel. A source pointed out that Tatra’s more advanced vehicles were far superior. “But we seem to have been a dumpyard for old vehicles,” he said.
Those familiar with the Tatra trucks also pointed out that Tatra AS has been using more advanced engines made by Renault, Cummins, Deutz etc for vehicles it has been supplying to other militaries – the Czech and Russian armies among others. “As far as I know, the T-815 is being supplied only to the Indian Army,” an official said.