Millennium Post

BEML chief is first casualty in Tatra case

The terse defence ministry note said it all. It said: 'The government has put the CMD of BEML VRS Natarajan under suspension following the recommendation of the CBI that he should be kept away from the post to ensure fair investigation.' Clearly, the government gave a notice that it would no longer take the hyperbole of the chairman-cum-managing director of the Bharat Earth Movers Ltd in its stride.

One needed a clarification still. For, only a few days ago the defence ministry had sent him a showcause as to how he filed a defamation suit against the recently retired Gen V K Singh, without its permission. Natarajan was yet to reply to that notice. After he does that, there could be a series of more action against the errant public-sector unit boss.

But, the questions remain: could the government – this is, the defence ministry – have taken action against him earlier. About two years ago, a CMD of Maharatna PSU had asked this correspondent, with an air of mystery: 'Have you met the BEML boss?' When the reply was in the negative and as the questioner smiled, the natural question was asked: 'Why this query?' 'The stories [of malfeasance] about him are a legion,' he had said without being willing to reveal any further.

Surely, when the stories are 'a legion', the government or its defence minister, A K Antony, could not but have heard them. Yet, no action was taken, till V K Singh broke ranks and complained in a television interview that the former chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency Lt Gen Tejinder Singh had offered him a bribe on behalf of the main supplier, Tatra, of BEML in return for him to order another 600 trucks.

This is the same Natarajan who had claimed about a year ago that given the job, he could build a 155 mm howitzer with ease, thus purportedly cutting-off all those foreign companies getting black-listed for indulging in corrupt practices.

Natarajan in a show of bravado has reportedly commented that he would come out clean from these charges.

Attempts by this correspondent to speak to the now suspended CMD of BEML failed as his staff claimed he was out of his office. His cell phone that was active till a few days ago. On Monday it had a message that the number was non-existent.
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