August 12, 2018
Rafel Aircraft Deal: A Joint Parliamentary Committee should be formed to investigate
The matter of purchase of Rafel fighter aircrafts from France has consistently remained within the realm of suspicion. There are allegations that this deal is the largest defense scam so far in India. The Rs 64-crore Bofors gun scam does not stand anywhere in comparison to the Rs 1000 crore rupees scam of Rafel deal. This is becoming gradually evident by various facts percolating from various sources that the Prime Minister, by violating the norms/rules, has taken risk with the country’s defense mechanism and has allowed the loot of the government exchequer for the benefit of a particular industrialist. It is also alleged that the government has made contradictory statements in this entire case and has misled the Parliament. Prima facie it seems that there are lots of untoward happenings within the deal. The Modi government does not have a satisfactory answer to the allegations. It has been trying to cover all the facts related to the deal under the cover of 2008’s secrecy provisions. The French government is doing the same.
The previous UPA government wanted to buy 126 Rafel aircrafts from the French company Dassault to strength the Air Force. Since the Congress government had suffered loss of face from the Bofors gun deal, it was over cautious about this deal. That’s why, for the defense deals, the committees of Defense Ministry and concerned departments of the armies were formed. The recommendations of these committees were mandatory for making any defense deal. Under this arrangement, every defense deal used to pass through several phases. The deal of the Rafel aircraft passed through all these stages and it was decided to purchase 126 aircrafts considering the need to renew the Air Force’s six Squadrons. The Rafel aircraft is capable of carrying nuclear weapons and it has two engines. There is also an inbuilt radar developed in the US.
At that time the government’s intention was to bring the technology to the domestic industries to make them self-reliant in defense production. It held long discussions in 2012 to buy the aircraft at reasonable rates. There was a decision that every aircraft will cost Rs 670 crores and18 aircrafts will be brought directly from France, and 108 aircraft will be manufactured in the public sector undertaking, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), with the parts brought from France. Meanwhile the government at the center changed. The new NDA government has continued the talks. In 2015, the CEO of Dassault, the aircraft manufacturer, came to India and stated that the talks have ended and the prices have also been confirmed. But to benefit a capitalist, it is alleged, Prime Minister Narendra Modi overturned all the procedures and conditions of the deal in just two days without taking the Air Force, the Ministry of Defense and the Foreign Ministry into confidence. In the ‘new deal’ the government decided to purchase 36 aircrafts instead of 126. That too at the rate of Rs 1660 crores per aircraft instead of original cost of Rs. 670 crores per aircraft. Earlier it was decided that the components of the aircraft will be brought from the outside and HAL will assemble them. It is now decided that technology transfer should not be necessary. All 36 aircrafts will be made by Dassault only.
Making fun of ‘Make In India’ slogan , the Public Sector company like HAL was eliminated from the process of the deal and instead Anil Ambani’s new and inexperienced company Reliance Defense Ltd was created to grab the deal. Reliance owner Anil Ambani constituted a joint venture with Dassault with the tacit help of the Prime Minister. It also came to light that Reliance had signed an agreement worth 20 million rupees to help the French President Francois Hollende’s actress partner Julie Gayet to produce the film.
There was a plea by the government to justify a sudden increase of Rs 1,000 crore per aircraft stating that special type of equipments have been fitted up in the aircraft specially for needs in India. But the utility of those equipments have not been certified by the Army Committees. The Socialist Party does not want to comment on the statements of Air Chief Marshal and Air Marshal, who came to the rescue of the government on this dispute. But it expresses its concern over openly taking the side of private company instead of HAL, a public sector undertaking. The government’s second plea was that it is urgent to get the aircraft right away. But what is the justification in overturning the entire process of the deal for this? Despite the all-out overturn of the deal, the first aircraft will come from France in September 2019.
The Socialist Party believes that the truth of the Rafel aircraft deal, that has come under suspicion, should be made known to the people of the country. The first responsibility for this is with the central government and the Prime Minister himself. The political parties, who are part of the BJP-led government, also owe a responsibility to the nation. They should come forward to dispel the doubts and suspicions spread about this deal.
The Socialist Party demands that for a fair investigation of the entire matter the government should immediately constitute the Joint Parliamentary Committee.
Dr. Prem Singh