The fundamental purpose of a vigilance probe in connection with sourcing of items for the Vande Bharat Express or Train 18 is to sabotage India's own semi-high speed train which itself needs to be probed, a senior Indian Railways official has said.
The Chief Administrative Officer at the Rail Wheel Plant in Bihar, Mr Shubhrangshu, wrote to Railway Board Chairman VK Yadav and says of the vigilance probe that "the purpose seems to be to sabotage the indigenous train forever and to kill initiative. The intent behind such 'fixing of officers' and creating terror is well understood."
As an engineer on Vande Bharat Express and a concerned Indian citizen, Mr Shubhranshu demanded a vigilance inquiry into the sabotage of Vande Bharat Express, the air conditioned electric multiple units and mainline electric multiple unit.
He noted that nothing incriminating had come out in the vigilance probe that started six months back on the procedural violations in component procurement for rolling out Train 18 in a record 18 months.
"What started as accusations of violating procedures against the innovative, bold and nationalistic team of ICF (Integral Coach Factory, Chennai) later evolved into a full bloom vigilance inquiry," Mr Shubhranshu said.
A retired ICF official on conditions of anonymity told IANS that the initial complaints about Train 18 were thought to be by some jealous officials.
"But now it seems it is part of an elaborate plan to sabotage India's attempts to roll out semi high speed trains and breaking into the elite club of such train makers," he said.
According to the officials, the work on rolling out Train 18 has come to a standstill, while the government is looking to import of trainsets.
"I have learnt that an import proposal for sixty trainsets have been made costing over Rs 25,000 crore citing delay in production of Vande Bharat Express by ICF," Mr Shubhranshu said in his letter.
"So, what started as an inquiry into alleged corruption in ICF and what was intended to create more competition and level playing field has turned out into a sinister exercise to import when we should have been proudly exploring export markets," Mr Shubhranshu told the Railway Board Chairman.
"I feel that this inquiry into so called irregularities was designed to sabotage the greatest 'Make In India' success story," he added.
Mr Shubhranshu in his letter told Mr Yadav to treat his letter as a formal complaint against Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) and decision makers in the Railway Board.
"If not agreed to, the undersigned will be constrained to raise the matter to the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) and PMO (Prime Minister's Office)," he wrote.
Contrary to media reports, Mr Shubhranshu in his letter dated August 19, 2019, to Mr Yadav said the tender for electrics for the first two trainsets was won by an Indian company Medha on L1 basis.
"In fact, two other bidders M/S Bombardier and M/S Siemens, were given counter offers as per rules, but they declined," he said.
Refuting the charge that the tender specifications were tailored to suit the Indian company, he said Siemens and Bombardier, the major propulsion systems suppliers, had quoted their rates without any reservations and also took part in the pre-bid meetings but lost out on price.
In the latest tender, Siemens, Alsthom and Bombardier did not quote despite his personal requests to the top officials of these companies while Cummins, CAF, BHEL, Medha, Titagarh and CRRC had participated in the tender.
Referring to the failure of India's moon lander Vikram, Mr Subhranshu said the Indian space agency will not be importing a lander but would continue to try till it succeeds.
"Yet, I have learnt that after much maligning of the indisputably successful Train-18 (Vande Bharat) we are thinking of importing trainsets," he wrote in his letter to Mr Yadav.
According to officials, the realisation of Train 18 by ICF is an achievement similar to Brahmos missile and Chandrayaan.
"We all know that it is not the outcome of a vigilance inquiry that kills the spirit of innovation, risk-taking, bold decision making and out-of-the-box thinking. It is the process of inquiry that does it in ample measure," he told Mr Yadav.