time that the company acquired its notorious reputation. Major Singh makes
a very interesting arms dealer. He starts off very colourfully. He has no
qualms about calling himself a 'fixer'. In the beginning he states how he
got a laser-guided bomb, which failed 5 tests out of 6, cleared.
TEHELKA: Sir, I met you that day.
MAJOR S.J. SINGH: Yes, we hardly spoke to each other. I was only listening and not speaking out.
TEHELKA: Okay, okay. Sir, where are you staying in Delhi?
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: I stay in Gurgaon. DLF.
LT. COL. BERRY: He'll be able to handle the whole thing. You have the choices. You can ask him whatever you want to ask for that.
TEHELKA: Sir, recently you've done any big deal.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: I keep doing for others. I am, basically, you can call me a fixer. I will use a very crude word but that is what it is. Okay? Like when you are in trouble you come to me and I sort you out…your problem. When he is in trouble, he comes to me and then I have my friends at different levels. I have friends in the ministry, the bureaucracy, I have friends in the ministry, the politics side. I have my friends in the defence services whether it is army, navy, air force. And then I have friends at the junior level which give you information. So that's how things work…the last work where we met last time I did for him.
TEHELKA: For Mr. Sahni.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: Yeah, there was a deal of Krasnopol. That was 150 crore deal I…. It was organised by me. I got everything sorted out. It was fixed up
TEHELKA: In the Defence?
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: In the defence. I am talking in the defence. It was a Russian missile. Bomb. This is laser-guided bomb. It was not being cleared and…
TEHELKA: Due to what?
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: Various reasons. Firstly, out of six tests, it was only one test which was successful. Five test failures. Then the bureaucracy was not at all in favour of it. They were totally against it inspite of pressure from some angles. So these were the various reasons and there were options available to them from French people, from Germany, but, ultimately, we were able to push it through as for the Russian…and now it is a repeat order.
TEHELKA: This is called smart ammunition something?
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: Yeah.
TEHELKA: Same thing.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: Krasnopol is the name of the bomb.
TEHELKA: The bomb will go around 14 lakhs.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: The total deal was of 5,000. It was 150 crores. Now the fresh order will be again. There are lot of problems, but again because of my friend…because this is being used by the artillery.
TEHELKA: This will be used for the Bofors.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: Various guns…so it depends on the charge now…Another bomb which is being propagated.
TEHELKA: Same American company?
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: No, no, one is Krasnopol…is Russian. The other is from South Africa. Now the South Africans are pushing it through their agent. So my job is not only to block that, but to see that the repeat order is given. Now we are waiting for the terms to be cleared as to whether if I do this job how much will you give me. If that understanding takes place we will clear this project. If it doesn't take place, someone else will take it. It is as simple as that…mathematics is very simple.
* * *
Major Singh also gives an example of how he's manipulating the Price Negotiation Committee in a deal worth Rs. 480 crore. Each one of the 6-7 committee members will get about 0.25 % each.
TEHELKA: You know, you give me example…some example, then only I can work out.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: See, there are two things, which we should be very clear. One thing is that one needs to be honest and to be honest, it's not only good to be honest but it must also show to be honest…I've explained it, that is the purpose. No one can go to the court of law on the issue.
TEHELKA: Exactly, that is true.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: Right, so it's only a reminder that this was the understanding between you and me…who's got the time and who's got the patience? Supposing it is a more of trust on which these deals are done. Something is going on now at the moment, the deal is…480 crores deal…the PNC is going on.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: Right? They asked to drop down from 50 per cent…from the quoted price they offered to 10 per cent. Then they came to 20 per cent. They came down to 35 per cent. Now the gap is 20 to 35. Fifteen per cent gap now. The party approached, they approached minister, approached everyone, nothing happened because minister also knows that he cannot put his neck in a situation where he will be caught. And he is not the person who will ever put his neck. He is very clever.
TEHELKA: George Fernandes? Okay.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: So he will never put, he knows his survival…he is a 4-man party. He knows where he can survive. So the answer was…so this party came they started offering me half per cent. So I said, "Are you joking with me?" Then they said, "One per cent." I said, "Still you are joking." I said, "Five per cent." So from 5 per cent they came to 3 per cent. So now it will be between 3, three-and-a-half per cent and our job is from 35 to bring it to 28. So 7 per cent we are saving you.
LT. COL. BERRY: They are getting extra margin there.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: Out of that, I am only sharing half with you. Fifty per cent, fair or unfair.
LT. COL. BERRY: See, because it will reach that stage.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: Fair or unfair.
TEHELKA: Fair, fair.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: Okay, so we say give me a proof that you will give me this three-and-a-half per cent, and that proof can be given by the bank guarantee.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: So now supposing they agree to three-and-a-half per cent, my gain out of that is half per cent. Three per cent will go to people.
TEHELKA: Those who are associated with you.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: No, no, the chap who is doing the job.
LT. COL. BERRY: Who will give the guarantee of the additional samples.
TEHELKA: Okay, okay.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: Who is the one who has to accept it, because he is the chairman of the PNC. Then in the PNC there is a financial controller - FACA -…that fellow has to be taken into account. Then there are other people.
LT. COL. BERRY: There are a total of about 6-7 people there.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: They have to be taken care of. Everyone gets his about 0.25, half per cent. It comes to half per cent. I get half per cent and I am happy with that.
the Sukhoi fighter aircraft deal, and calls Choudhary a nincompoop. Later, Colonel Berry, while pitching his services to the 'President' of West End,
gives some more details about the kind of deals Major Singh has
done. He also lists out some of Singh's contacts.
TEHELKA: So what are the deals which Mr. Sahni is doing? Is he a more intelligent choice than Mr. Singh would be?
LT.COL. BERRY: I'll tell you, I'll tell you now. Let him [referring to waiter who is in the hotel room] just go, I'll tell you the complete story.
[Pause as waiter makes tea. Berry asks Tehelka whether he can get S. J. Singh to come directly to the room. Tehelka agrees. Berry calls S. J. Singh on his mobile.]
LT.COL. BERRY: So I was saying ki as far as…
TEHELKA: Who's the better choice?
LT.COL. BERRY: Better choice would be S.J. Singh. I will put it any day. Because S.J. Singh is a sub-agent of Sahni.
TEHELKA: Sub-agent to…?
LT.COL. BERRY: Sub-agent or partner to Sahni.
LT.COL. BERRY:Haan. So main person is S.J. Singh. It is just Sahni the name. That is why he is ready to sign for six per cent. Otherwise you will have to give 10 to 12 per cent there.
LT.COL. BERRY: So…and then this is the trick of the trade, that one must get into…and for every political adjustments one must…one has to be very, very sure…
TEHELKA: So what are his contacts like? What kind of deals he has done?
LT.COL. BERRY: (showing tehelka another sheaf of papers): I…I'll tell you. These are the type of…where he has been directly involved and directly helped. And Krasnopol ammunition for artillery…150 crores.
TEHELKA: Krasnopol ammunition?
LT.COL. BERRY:Haan, yeah. It's a Russian company.
TEHELKA: Which year was this?
LT.COL. BERRY: Although Sahni is supposed to be the main this thing, but actually…because I have been dealing with Sahni for a long time…almost 10 years or so…
TEHELKA: He did it? Which year was this?
LT.COL. BERRY: Just…I think about six months back or seven months back.
TEHELKA: Six months back?
LT.COL. BERRY: Something like that.
TEHELKA: Hundred and fifty crores?
LT.COL. BERRY: Yeah.
TEHELKA: What was the commission then?
LT.COL. BERRY: Again…this I am not very sure as to how much amount of commission…
TEHELKA: We will ask him.
LT.COL. BERRY: This S.J. Singh will be…to tell you better.
TEHELKA: What else?
LT.COL. BERRY: Cornet for 250 crores, which was done directly by him when he was not a partner to Sahni.
LT.COL. BERRY: As a matter of fact even Vipin Khanna was looking for him to become a partner. Because he can sign the things and [makes a gesture]…so…
LT.COL. BERRY: And this is another company which is…. The shoulder-fired anti-tank this thing Carl Gustav for 85 crores.
TEHELKA: Carl Gustav?
LT.COL. BERRY: Yeah. From Sweden.
TEHELKA: When was this?
LT.COL. BERRY: That was long back. Because he has been in this line for quite some time. From here, there…you know. And then Quartain of Australia. This was a small one. Five million radio sets were there. That he did. Then SG…SGT Sweden. NSG rifles for 15 crores. So basically, you know, 10, 15, 85, 100 and…
TEHELKA (interrupts): NSG was sniper rifles?
LT.COL. BERRY: Yeah.
* * *
Major Singh emphasises the importance of the trial evaluation report
of the ultimate product. Says he, "If the end user says it is unfit
for the Army's use, who are you to say that you are good?"
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: Because as I…to start with I mentioned to you the grassroots level, you have to take care. Then you have to take care of middle levels. For example, this item of yours…it is…the trials are carried out at different levels. Now the most important agency in this becomes the trial report.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: That is there…. Of course, many other factors are there. But the most important technical factor is your trial report. Now if you do not take care at the trial level, whatever connections you may have, you'll never go through.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: I guarantee that.
TEHELKA: Which is basically, they say that you are sub-standard, then you're sub-standard.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: Not sub-standard. If the end user says it is unfit for our use, who are you to say that you are good?
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: I am the end user. And if I have to trial, then I have to say and certify that okay this meets my QR or it meets my requirement. Only then it is worth going further. Further negotiations will only take place once the basics are cleared.
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: So that is one stage which is a very, very important stage. And that is from where short-listing takes place. Because there will be more than one item or offer to be tested. And now, on a small thing, he can say very clearly, "Yes, fine. Everything is good, good, good. But this is not so-and-so like so-and-so." That's it. You are out. So that so-and-so is now the qualifying mark.
TEHELKA: Has it happened to you before?
MAJ. S.J. SINGH: Why not? So that's why we are very cautious about…. When we handle the subject, we handle it at the appropriate level. To start with, associate them right from the beginning…word 'go'. So the…the meter, as I say, is down from the moment the word 'go'.
the five-star hotel we are in, Major Singh has Major General Satnam
Singh (GOC), infantry chief of the Drass-Kargil sector in Jammu &
Kashmir, based in Nimu, waiting for us. The General is on leave and an
old friend of Major Singh. Under infantry chief Major General Shankar
Prasad, he will be responsible for the trials of the HHTs. The infantry
was already conducting trials for Thomson-CSF and El-Op. Major Singh,
indeed, was all for involving the top brass from the very beginning.
TEHELKA [to Satnam Singh]: How long will the evaluation trials take, like…the Thomson and the El-Op?
MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: See, we can't be very specific about it. It is based on the type of equipment we have…you know, like, if you are dealing with these Image Intensifiers, they take much shorter time, than probably a weapon system will take. Because, you know, it depends upon what are you trying to see.
MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: All the equipment…it's all in the understanding. All the equipment that comes for trial is basically of the firm. If they give it to us, then it all goes back.
TEHELKA: Yeah, at no-cost and…
MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: So, you carry on trials, see your performances that have been identified by the company. See what we need. We either say 'yes', or we say 'no'. Or we give, ki all right, if you can…if the company can give us what we need. Because some people have the capability to modify the equipment and things.
TEHELKA: What is the kind of…biggest problem you are facing with them…if at all? Weight?
MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: Problems, in what way?
TEHELKA: Weight? Bulk performance…?
MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: With what?
TEHELKA: The hand-held….
MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: The imager?
MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: No, it's the quality of image that counts. And, also the other criteria is the portability. You see, if it is going to be a hand-held Image Intensifier, it should be something that doesn't add too much of weight.
TEHELKA: Yeah, yeah. Obviously, obviously. That's where we score. Yeah.
TEHELKA [interrupting]: Are you happy with the evaluation of the other equipment that has come up so far? Thomson and El-Op?
MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: It's…it's…it's not been fully accepted as such. It has still to come to my area for trials.
TEHELKA: Okay. And this one, El-Op?
MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: El-Op has also not come to me. They're still at the lower levels. Trials are going on.
TEHELKA: Lower levels meaning?
MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: Means the plains…
LT. COL. BERRY: Terrain-wise…terrains.
MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: But they still have to move up to my area.
MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: To the high altitude trials. So we haven't really filed them off. So I can't give you an opinion on that at all.
MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: But yes, we have feedbacks of the trials of the desert region. There are some problems there in that portion.
* * *
The West End President Alvin D'Souza lets his imagination loose, highlighting thereby how incredibly casual and callous critical defence purchases have become. He talks about how they could introduce an audio factor in the HHTs.
TEHELKA: What we can do in ours, which is very rare, is that we can put in movement locators. So immediately there's human movement, there will be a beep that goes off.
MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: Yeah, it's something like the Battlefield Service Radars.
MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: It gives you sound…