Coffins for Army gath­er­ing dust over pro­ce­dural wran­gles

■ The con­sign­ment re­mains in court as the au­di­tor in its ob­ser­va­tion said, ‘‘there is a need to check at what prices the com­pany sup­plied the same prod­ucts to In­dian Army and US Army at the same time.”

The Hitavada - - HOME & ABROAD - ■ By Anish Singh

PRO­CE­DURAL wran­gles have held up hand­ing over of nearly 900 body bags to Army ly­ing un­used for the past 17 years.

The body bags are gath­er­ing dust in a ware­house of Pa­tiala House court as the CBI had con­ducted a decade long in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged coffins scam, which had erupted dur­ing the ten­ure of the Va­j­payee Govern­ment at the Cen­tre.

“On July 27, 1999 Op­er­a­tion Vi­jay was con­cluded and a con­tract with a for­eign com­pany (USbased Buitron and Baiza com­pany) was signed on Au­gust 2, 1999 for pro­cure­ment of 3,000 body bags and 500 alu­minium cas­kets. Around four lakh dol­lars were paid to that com­pany from In­dian ex­che­quer,” Army sources said. The deal was signed for the de­liv­ery cas­kets of 18 kgs of each but it sup­plied each cas­ket of 55 kg.

When the con­cerned In­dian author­ity raised the is­sue, the com­pany pressed for change in con­tract but the Govt didn’t al­low any al­ter­ation into it and rather pre­ferred for its can­cel­la­tion in Au­gust 2001. Within days, a con­tro­versy erupted per­tain­ing to the pro­cure­ment trans­ac­tion and the op­po­si­tion par­ties led by Con­gress vo­cif­er­ously raised the is­sue in Par­lia­ment. “There was no loss in en­tire trans­ac­tion to the Govt,” the sources added.

Af­ter 12 years of in­ten­sive probe, the CBI court gave a clean­chit to the Govern­ment in 2013 and found men­tion­ing of 18 kgs in the deal was a typo er­ror. In March 2017, SC passed an or­der for the Min­istry of De­fence to take back the con­sign­ment of 900 body bags and 150 cas­kets from the Pa­tiala House court.

But it re­mains in court as the au­di­tor in its ob­ser­va­tion said, ‘‘there is a need to check at what prices the com­pany sup­plied the same prod­ucts to In­dian Army and US Army at the same time.”

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