ARMY SPOOKS UNDERTHESCANNER An army probe issues arrest warrants for two generals as it discovers discrepancies in a deal with a private firm. Result: No procurement of sensitive spying equipment.

 

By Sandeep Unnithan

Intelligence for refusing to join a two- year-old probe into irregularities in military intelligence procurements.n ongoing army investigation has revealed the complicity of army officials and irregulari­ties in a contract with a private sector software firm. The inquiry took a dramatic turn on June 5 this year, when a military court issued arrest warrants for former director general of military intelligence Lt General B.S. Thakur and Major General D.N. Asija (retired) of the Directorate of Military

The probe has simmered with­in the army for over two years. The army ordered a Court of Inquiry (Col) in 2013 after military intelligence offi­cials complained about irregularities in the procurement of satellite inter­pretation equipment from a Mumbai- based private sector software firm, Rolta India Limited.

The Ministry of Defence has placed
on hold a Rs 165-crore contract with Rolta to supply 27 Photogrammetry and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to the army because of these complaints. The contract was to have been signed in 2011 but was stalled after the controversy broke out that year. The slow-moving probe has paralysed the army’s procurement of newer GI systems critical for process­ing spy imagery, say army officials. The

A ROLTA DISPLAY STALL AT THE DEFEXPO 2012 IN NEW DELHI


THE SLOW-MOVING PROBE HAS PARALYSED THE INDIAN ARMY’S

PROCUREMENT OF EQUIPMENT CRITICAL TO PROCESS SPY IMAGERY.

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The Col is looking into charges of irregularities in a Rs 165-crore deal for 27 spy satellite processing systems for military intelligence


army’s requirement for the systems is meanwhile mounting as old systems are in need of replacement.

Major General Asija’s refusal to join the probe, however, is curious given that he was one of the officers who recommended an inquiry in 2011. The inquiry conducted in Sena Bhawan by a brigadier-ranked offi­cer has, so far, established close links between the Directorate of Military Intelligence (MI) and Rolta.

The Col has not established any financial wrongdoing because the contract did not go through. It has, however, found certain procedural deviations where the Directorate of MI insisted, reportedly on specious grounds, that procuring systems from new vendors would create problems of interoperability and integration.

Lt General Thakur, who was DGMI between 2011 and 2013, let irregular­ities prevail in the directorate, army officials told india today. Lt General Thakur and Major General Asija did not return calls or messages seeking comment. Responding to a question­naire from india today, a Rolta spokes­person clarified that the company was not an accused in the army Col. The company strongly denied contractual and financial discrepancies in annual maintenance contracts and denied holding back contractual obliga­tions. “Rolta provides comprehensive maintenance services for integrated systems, as contracted,” said M.K.

 

Govind, senior divisional director, corporate marketing and sales, Rolta India Limited.

THE WHISTLEBLOWING SPOOK The controversy began in 2011 when a whistleblower in the MI directorate

IN THE DOCK

LTGEN B.S. THAKUR

Was direc­tor general military intelli­gence between 2011-2013 when the irregularities came to light. Served arrest warrant for not joining inquiry.

MAJOR GENERAL D.N. ASIJA

Was ADG military intel­ligence under Lt Gen Thakur, but one of the officers who ordered a probe. Served arrest warrant for not joining the inquiry.

detected irregularities in a Rs 165- crore contract for purchasing 27 mobile and static photogrammetry and GIS systems. The systems—for command and truck-mounted units for mobile formations—are used to create three-dimensional imag­es of ground data collected from spy satellites, drones and aircraft. These 3D images are laid over GIS software to create a digital library of military targets.

The case came to light quite by accident. Colonel Sujeet Banerjee was posted as officiating director of the Mi’s sensitive 17th directorate (MI-17) that dealt exclusively with spy imagery. He was a stand-in for Colonel M.K. Chakraborty who was away on a month’s leave. The directorate is the nodal agency for processing satellite photographs from various commands and sends it down to various army formations. MI-17 also receives spy imagery from the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and the Defence Image Processing and Analysis Centre (DIPAC) within the Defence Intelligence Agency.

A majority of these imagery tasks were carried out by systems the army had procured for over Rs 500 crore from Rolta between 1996 and 2008. Colonel Banerjee found discrepancies in the annual maintenance contracts the army had signed with the firm. The software had been purchased from three foreign firms—Oracle,

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