AugustaWestland: Spare us the half-truths and give the facts

AugustaWestland: Spare us the half-truths and give the facts

Submitted by alvin on Tue, 2016-05-10 19:14 The whole country, it seems, is fixated in the discussion on the alleged corruption in the Augusta Westland VVIP helicopter deal. Opinions, albeit coloured, are flying thick and fast. However, it is the duty of the government to place the truth in front of the people of the country who are supposed to be the real masters of the country. Alas, the NDA government instead of placing the complete facts in front of the people has involved itself in a smear campaign of its political opponents. This is not only sad but also detrimental to the delivery of justice in public interest. The government should concentrate all its efforts to expedite the three-year-old investigation by the CBI and put all the documents in front of the nation, if their intentions are to bring the guilty to book. The actions or inaction by the present dispensation at the Centre do not give that confidence to the public in general.   Let us see the facts available in the public domain without a jaundiced eye.   The need for VVIP helicopters was first felt in 1997 by the NDA government under PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The former secretary, PMO, late Brajesh Mishra suggested decrease in the altimeter from 6000mtrs to 4500 metres which facilitated Augusta Westland to enter the competition which was nowhere in the picture earlier.   Many a meetings and deliberations took place between 1999 to 2010 at the PMO office chaired by many including the Cabinet Secretary, NSA, Defence Procurement committee etc., when finally the order was placed with Augusta Westland for 12 helicopters, with each costing Rs300 crores.   Even though the helicopter was not a defence requirement, the Indian Air Force was involved in certifying the safety requirements. It appears that the IAF caved into the demands of bureaucracy and political masters in the case. Maybe considerations were also involved in tweaking the safety height requirements of the VVIP chopper to suit Augusta Westland helicopter which even the US President considered very expensive.   It is very much part of the Indian culture to react only when the western nations comment on our affairs, especially on corruption.   The present government and the CBI did not move an inch on the inquiry ordered by the UPA government in 2013 (also because of Italian courts order) till the Italian appellate court pronounced its judgment in the last week of April 2016 indicting M/S Fin Meccanica and other Italian agents on charges of bribing Indians for the sale of 12 Helicopters. We Indians certainly have an ostrich mentality in all our affairs.   The citizens of India want to know the truth and the absolute truth and not political gimmickry. It does not augur well for the PM of the nation to deliberately avoid participation in the debate in the ongoing Lok Sabha session and speak derogatorily about his political opponents without having laid the proof in the people’s court.   It only shows that the PM of the country does not have confidence in the Lok Sabha of which he is the leader of the house. Will this qualify as a breach of privilege?   The people of India should now be told whether bribe was given to any of the Indians in the deal worth Rs3,600 crores. Is it not a possibility that the Italian agents took the bribe amount from their parent company and pocketed some portion of it?   The role of all parties involved, starting from PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Shri Manmohan Singh, their advisers at that time, Vajpayee’s foster son, bureaucrats involved in decision making from 1997 to 2010, including various IAF officers, should be disclosed to the nation, since it is difficult to believe that only Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi (retd) and his associates are involved in accepting bribes.   Brajesh Mishra, who was the one person with a long association with the deal, and his team, both at PMO and NSA should also be thoroughly probed by the CBI as the needle suspicion points towards others persons such as the then defence secretary Ajai Vikram Singh, cabinet secretary BK Chaturvedi, and SPG director BV Wanchoo.   The time has come for such files to be declassified and put before the nation. In any case, the helicopter was not a part of the defence requirement and no secrecy clause can be brought in.   Does the government have the guts to declassify all the files pertaining to purchase of 12 Augusta Westland VVIP helicopters? Or is the government afraid of full disclosure to hide its own skeletons and use the issue for its political advantage by telling half-truths? Only time will tell. Author  Born on 3 Dec 1954 at Sringeri in Chikmagalur District, Karnataka Wg Cdr GB Athri (Retd) joined the Indian Air Force as a commissioned officer in 1976. He served the IAF with distinction, for over 25 years at various stations, all over India including the border posts.