“This committee examines if the requirement can be procured from India or can it be manufactured in India. Then it goes to the Defence Acquisition Council which decides how much must be procured and from where? So, in this case, the Air Force said they want 126 aircrafts, ie 7 squadrons. When it went to the categorisation committee, they said that for the immediate requirement, the fighter jets will have to be procured from a foreign manufacturer as as India did not have the technology to manufacture it. But, added that one squadron could be bought from the manufacturer and then the rest can be manufactured in India through transfer of technology. This would have seen 108 jets manufactured in the country,” explained Bhushan.
The DAC agreed to these suggestions and a global tender was issued and Dassault’s Rafale was shortlisted. Price negotiations were almost complete by March 2015, a year after the Modi government came to power. “At a meeting in March, Dassault CEO Eric Trappier, in the presence of the Air Force chief, said that the deal will be signed soon and that they were extremely happy to partner with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited as they were collaborating with HAL on ‘Mirage’. Then things changed. On April 10, 2019, after PM Narendra Modi’s meeting with the French President, suddenly a notice is put out stating that only 36 aircrafts would be purchased and all of these would be purchased in a ready-to-fly condition and at a higher price,” pointed out Bhushan.
“Anil Ambani set up the company, which entered into the MoU with Dassault, only in April. Until April 24, the Dassault chairperson had no knowledge of the deal, but it was signed on April 30. This is a deal which was signed in 7 days. So, Dassault entered into a deal with this company which had no land or capital at that time. In fact, Anil Ambani got the land only in June 2015,” highlighted Sibal.
To all of this concerns, the Modi government has been giving no answers at all, stressed Congress spokesperson Tiwari. “They have been trying to stonewall, obfuscate and deflect this as they have no answers to some of the fundamental questions. The fundamental question is, “Did the PM Modi Modi-led NDA government buy an aircraft which was negotiated at ₹526 crore for ₹1,690 crore? It has been clearly mentioned that the aircrafts being bought were of the same configuration as negotiated earlier. What are these specifications that have increased the price by more than ₹1,000 crore,” points out Tiwari. Moreover, the anti-corruption clauses have also been removed. He asserted that if Congress were to come to power, there will be an investigation into the deal and if corruption is found, then the deal will be scrapped.
Both Tiwari and Sibal stressed that the Rafale deal was not a government to government deal. In case of both Russia and the States, they were government deals; here it is Dassault selling to India.
Rafale deal isn’t the only issue staring at the NDA government; rising unemployment is the albatross around the Modi government’s neck. “Unemployment in India is at a 45-year high. The youth of India are the most affected. Unemployment of young males is at 17% and female youth unemployment is at 29%. These are hideous figures and extremely worrying,” underscored Tharoor.
“The basis problem this country is facing that there is not enough education in the system to prepare the youth for a digitalised economy, which is what this government has been supporting. Not enough is being done in the education sector, in fact the allocation for education has reduced. The IT sector is losing out. There is not enough being done to educate and develop skills of youngsters to ensure their employability. Several people in the informal sector lost jobs after demonetisation. People live on the margins. The entire trading community has been affected by the shoddily-implemented GST. The farming community is up in arms,” pointed out Sibal.
Adding to Sibal’s points, Bhushan highlighted that there were more than 26 lakh government jobs lying vacant and in cases where governments have hired, it has been riddled in scams. SSC, which is the main recruiting organisation, is a scam house and “they have given the same person, who was presiding over these scams, an extension,” said Bhushan.
Talking about an alternate vision, Bhushan stresses, “We will have to think of a way of some kind of income transfer from those who have a lot of money to those who don’t have. We need to also have some kind of ‘Right to Employment’, so everyone is guaranteed some kind of money for at least half of the year. At last then we may not see the distress that we are seeing currently among people. Also there must be pension given to the elderly and the disabled. We need to impose a wealth tax of 1% to those who have wealth more than ₹10 crore and 2% to those who have more than ₹100 crore. A 20% inheritance tax must be imposed; in every country this is there. India is the only country where there is no inheritance tax. And a 1% turnover tax must be imposed and then we will be able to pay for these schemes, which will lay the foundation for transforming India. Otherwise this problem of unemployment will grow,” explained Bhushan.
Playing up the Congress’ plan of a Minimum Basic Income, Tharoor said that the party plans to reveal more details in the manifesto, which will be released soon.