Old army vehicles remain an attraction for parliamentarians

NEW DELHI: It seems that members of Parliament are very interested in acquiring vehicles like the old Maruti Gitana & Mahindra jeeps, as well as motorcycles or Enfield Bullet trucks that are eliminated by the Army. Up to 36 deputies have used this facility in the last two years.

“During 2017 & 2018, 36 MPs had applied to purchase Army’s disposal vehicles. The vehicles were made available to all the members who had applied,” said minister of state of defence , in a written answer in Rajya Sabha on Monday.

Though the names of the MPs or the type of vehicles were not specified, 15 were allotted them from the Ordnance Depot at Avadi, 11 from Vehicles Sub Depot at Meerut, three from Central Ordnance Depot at Chheoki, two each from Central Ordnance Depot at Mumbai & Central Armoured Fighting Vehicle Depot at Kirkee & one each from other depots in Jodhpur, Udhampur & Panagarh.

Apart from their salaries & allowances, MPs are entitled to a wide array of amenities & facilities. “Under the facilities, MPs can apply for Army disposal vehicles. These requests are forwarded to the defence ministry for release of such vehicles from the Army Disposal Stock,” said an official.

Army officers, in turn, said their battalions & units have a “discard policy” for vehicles that have crossed a certain laid down mileage or vintage. Such vehicles are deposited in ordnance depots in return for new vehicles as per authorization scales. The “disposal vehicles” are then auctioned to scrap dealers & others, often at throwaway prices.

“I don’t know the purpose of MPs buying such Army vehicles but they — especially the Willys jeeps, Bullets & Jongas – were quite a craze in rural areas earlier. The vehicles would be restored & retro-fitted to be driven around in style. A farmer I know in Bihar had purchased an Army Gypsy for just Rs 7,000 from a scrap dealer in 2003. He then spent around Rs 1 lakh to refurbish it & still drives around in it,” said a senior officer.