India is in the midst of another defense scandal involving the purchase of Italian AugustaWestland helicopters to protect important people from being shot in flight.
The money trail of the helicopter deal, as in many other similar instances, is murky – fake companies, alleged involvement of politicians, a former Air Force chief and his relatives and an apparent mention of “the family’’ in some secret documents that has some tongues wagging.
This is no whodunit. There is only one family in India today that calls the shots. Plenty of unaccounted and kickback money has allegedly filled coffers and made the rich richer. Nobody is surprised.
A defense deal without sleaze and money changing hands is an oxymoron, like a Sunny Leone starrer without bold love making scenes.
The shock factor would actually be a clean government contract in handling natural resources such as coal, oil, gas, land, telecom spectrum or defense. Or a clothed Poonam Pandey photo on Twitter.
Still, the always angry opposition parties are angrier, probably venting some extra frustration at being out of power and losing out on the booty. Defense minister AK Antony wants the contract canceled. Such knee jerk reactions need scrutiny.
As matters stand even the Indian Prime Ministers helicopter can apparently be brought down by some basic bird shooting weaponry.
And here we are a country dealing with jihadi terror and Maoist rebels armed with sophisticated weapons, including rocket launchers. There is also talk that India may re-look its already massively delayed fighter jet deals with France and Russia. This could be another disaster. India’s fighter jet fleet is already severely depleted.
India’s air power today relies on outdated Russian MiG fighters that crash about the country, killing pilots and civilians as if there is a war on.
New state-of-the-art fighters need to be inducted. Otherwise, India could be forced to requisition the grounded Kingfisher planes for military purpose, in an emergency such as a deranged Pakistani general launching an attack. Vijay Mallya could finally make some money in aviation.
Indeed, if one were to follow Antony’s yardstick, many more government deals would need to be scrapped.
Roads across the country will need to be dug up and restored to original mud paths given the unholy contractor-official-politician nexus. Most Indians will be without a cellphone signal if one were to undo the telecom scam. The phone a friend option in Kaun Banega Crorepati will no longer be available.
Many expensive high rises built on land acquired by governments in public interest, then handed to builders at throwaway prices will need to be dismantled. Coal will need to be sent back to the mines.
The Indian Army would have to return the infamous Bofors guns that did an excellent job to rebuff the Kargil incursion. If one were to extend Antony’s argument, then millions of other little deals that every Indian has to strike daily to avail of a basic state facilities will also need to be annulled.
Many would have to surrender their driving licenses, passports, electricity connections, house construction clearance certificates, sewerage disposal and water supply, birth and death certificates – officially the dead will no longer be so.
The solution to India’s endemic corruption is not inaction, indecisiveness and regression. The fear of scandal has hurt India’s defense preparedness. Bureaucrats sit on files while our soldiers face the bullets. The most upright officers are those who do nothing. It is a sad state of affairs.
The way to undo corruption is to move strongly towards minimizing it. There is some merit in sociologist Ashish Nandi’s recent polemic that corruption makes thing happen in India that may not necessarily be bad, especially when it relates to the poor.
One could be better off paying a tout for a ration card than being without it. But, bribery cannot be a way of life, the cut in every official contract, the essential chai paani for each government service.
The culprits should be caught and tried quickly. The case files of the big fish should be sent to the big shark President Pranab Mukherjee for instant action. The honorable President can be counted to work out something suitably harsh, with no mercy.