BEML chief Natarajan in yet another scam
Petition against BEML chief VRS Natarajan for owning properties under the BEML Cooperative Housing Society in Bangalore
It is not just the Tatra trucks scam or the case pertaining to alleged irregularities in awarding contract for an Enterprises Resource Planning Project (ERP), due to which the BEML incurred huge amount of losses, Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) India chairman and managing director VRS Natarajan is also involved in a housing scam.
Documents in possession of Tehelka show that Natarajan also abused his official position to get undue favours worth several crores from the BEML Employment Cooperative Society.
Natarajan is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for renewing BEML’s contract with Tatra Sipox, the UK-based agency from where BEML bought Tatra trucks in violation of defence procurement rules. Natarajan has also been booked by the CBI in a separate case pertaining to irregularities allegedly committed by the accused in the tendering process for hiring Astral Consulting Ltd., a company based in Coimbatore, to implement an enterprises resource planning (ERP) project, which led to a loss to BEML. Natarajan has denied his involvement in both cases.
The BEML chief joined the company in 2002 and even though he doesn’t qualify as an employee of the organisation (legal experts say that chairmen and directors of PSUs don’t qualify as employees), he was awarded two sites (site no 795 and 796 at BEML Layout 6th stage in Bangalore) measuring more than 6,000 square feet on 22 January 2002 for a sum of Rs 8.5 lakh.
Again in March 2005, in violation of the society’s bye-laws, Natarajan was allotted another site (site no 91 at BEML Layout in Bogadi) measuring 5,330 square feet in Mysore. Bye-law 10 (a) of the BEML Employment Cooperative Society states: “No member shall be eligible for the allotment of site/house if he/she is already owning a site or a house or a plot.” In an incident that rocked Karnataka earlier, Justice Shivraj Patel, had to resign as Karnataka Lokayukta after it emerged that he was allotted more than one housing site by the Karnataka Judicial Employees Housing Cooperative. He consequently relinquished ownership of the second site.
“The minimum requirement of five years of service is also one of the reasons why the transfer of the site is illegal,” says Martin Luther, a 58-year-old supervisor at BEML. The management of BEML raised the issue of illegal granting of sites to Natarajan through notices sent on 24 December 2007 and 16 July 2008; but no action was taken.
Martin Luther and five other employees of the organisation have challenged the allocation of the sites to Natarajan in the High Court (HC). When the BEML housing society did not act on the two notices they sent on 28 February and 15 April to the management, they decided to approach the court.
“We had put in all our life’s savings in the co-operative society to get a site in Bangalore, but when genuine members were denied the sites, we had to take the legal route,” says Vishwanath C, one of the affected employees, who moved the HC.
Both of them, like thousands of others, had paid an amount of Rs 5.4 lakh in 2004 to own a housing site in Raja Rajeshwari Nagar in Bangalore where the society had developed a layout. Even though they were promised their sites within 15 months, they are yet to get possession.
Luther claims in his petition that sites were even allotted to relatives and friends of an official in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). “Two sites were allotted to Umadevi Nambiar and Preetha Prabha, who are complete outsiders and are benamis for TKA Nair, an advisor to the PMO. However, after our complaint was filed, they returned the sites that they had been allotted. However, Dr Priya, Nair’s daughter, who was also allotted a site in Bangalore, continues to retain its ownership,’’ says Luther.
Their activism, however, cost them their jobs in Bangalore. All five, who had complained and raised the issue of allotment of sites at the annual general body meeting, were transferred to Kolar. They say they are victims of the management’s vengeance and have challenged their transfers in the HC.
Imran Khan is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.com.