Transparency in defence deals

Allegations of corruption in defence deals, of inflated prices, of cut money paid and received, of arbitrarily changing specifications initially settled, etc., have been made repeatedly, involving politicians and defence officials. The Bofors scandal haunted Rajiv Gandhi till his death. During the Kargil war, allegations of corruption in buying coffins for the dead soldiers were made against the then Defence Minister George Fernandes. Corruption allegations were made again in the deal to buy Agusta Helicopters for VVIPs. The latest to rock the country is the alleged irregularities in the Rafale aircraft deal. The Congress and the NDA Government have been trading charges and counter-charges on this deal. The Congress says that the price per aircraft settled by the UPA Government was arbitrarily changed and a new deal struck by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the French manufacturers, Dassault company, keeping even the Cabinet Committee on Security in the dark. According to the Congress, the price per aircraft, fixed during the UPA regime, was exorbitantly raised while the old agreement on supplying 126 aircraft was reduced to just 36. The Government stoutly denied the charges and claimed it had arrived at a better deal than that made by the UPA.
Since the common people know nothing about what had actually happened they did not know who was telling the truth. But the press conference held in Delhi on Tuesday by two BJP leaders and former Union Ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha and the eminent lawyer Prashant Bhusan has shed new light on the deal effected by the Prime Minister. The plethora of photo copies of original documents they placed in the public domain justifiably raises serious doubts about the transparency of the Rafale deal. They have demanded that the Government reveal facts relating to the deal, especially those relating to cost. They have contended, with documents, that the ‘confidentiality clause` regarding the disclosure of the price that the Government has been harping on is untenable. The price of the aircraft did not come under the confidentiality clause. Since thousands of crores of rupees of public money is involved, it is proper for the Government to come clean on the matter. Otherwise the suspicion will deepen that something irregular has been done and the Government is trying to hide the facts.

Friday, 10 August, 2018