Editorial

Watchdog to lapdog

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 8/12/2018 12:05:22 PM IST

 Why the staggering Rs.58,000 crore Rafale deal has been relegated to the inside pages by the India print media and ignored by the electronic media is baffling. The Congress has been accusing massive irregularities in the Rafale deal, alleging that the Modi government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government for the procurement of 126 Rafale jets. The Congress raised the issue in parliament and also demanded a joint parliamentary probe but which was rejected by the government on the specious plea of being under a ‘confidential’ clause. The issue was then picked up by two senior professionals turned politicians and former BJP ministers- Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and noted legal luminary Prashant Bhushan. In their lengthy press interview, the trio had effectively dismantled the government’s argument point by point. Unfortunately, except for a newspaper in Kolkata and a television channel in Delhi, the rest of the Indian mainstream media relegated the issue to the inside pages of newspapers while television channels ignored it completely. The two BJP ministers have described the alleged scam as a “textbook case of criminal misconduct” more staggering than the Rs.1437 crore Bofors gun deal. It may be recalled that during UPA government, the French had agreed to sell the Rafale jet to India @ Rs.526 crore for 126 jets involving a total of Rs.66,276 crore. After BJP came to power, the prime minister Narendra Modi agreed to hike up the cost of each Rafale jet to Rs.1600 crore and also slashed the quantity from 126 to 36 jets. As per the cost analysis, it means that in total, the nation has incurred a loss of Rs.39,064 crore by buying only 36 instead of 126 Rafale jet planes. Definitely, this difference of Rs.39,064 crore as pointed out by the former BJP ministers demands explanation as it necessitates a thorough probe. It is also interesting to note the following issues from the Rafale deal signed by the Modi government: (a)The number of aircraft was reduced from 126 to 36 unilaterally by the prime minister;(b) Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which has experience in building defence equipment, was removed and Reliance was introduced as the offset partner, in spite of having no experience;(c) At the time when it signed the Rafale deal, Reliance Defence, a year-old company, had huge debts and accumulated losses and (d) The price of each aircraft has gone up from Rs 526 crore to Rs 1,660 crore. The Congress has also been pressing for price details of the deal but the NDA government has refused to divulge them citing confidentiality provisions of a 2008 Indo-France pact. The government has asserted that there were no irregularities in the deal. The specious plea made by the government that it cannot reveal the facts of the deal because of a ‘confidential’ clause signed with the French, makes the entire deal even more blatantly dubious. Such ‘confidential clauses’ are meaningless since details of military hardware are available in the market in the west. Nobody is asking for specific military details but on why the cost was hiked and the justifications. The only way to settle the issue is to seek probe by JPC or CBI. In all this, the Indian media has discredited itself by reversing its role from watchdog to lapdog.

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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