Augusta Westland: The New Scam in the Old Indian System

helicopterIndia has been witnessing innumerable scams everyday. Most of these scams are true; some are political accusations. But the cost of these scams and fake accusations are enormous on the development of the nation. In the interests of the true national growth, all three pillars of the country – Legislature, Executive and Judiciary must do a quick post mortem of these scams and bring out the truth immediately. The latest scam in the Indian circuit is Augusta Westland the chopper purchase for VVIPS from Italy.
Times  of India writes on 28 April 2016
The latest faceoff between government and Congress over the Agusta Westland chopper deal portends another round of fireworks in Parliament. The air is thick with accusations and insinuations. This time, however, it is necessary to transcend the customary trading of charges between political adversaries to let a free and fair investigation take precedence.
As political parties revert to their default tu tu main main instincts, there are several inconsistencies on both sides of the argument. Congress argues in its defence that it blacklisted the company, but is being accused of going slow on the probe to shield the guilty. The NDA government claims it is pursuing the case with gusto, yet it rehabilitated the Anglo-Italian firm to become a part of the ‘Make in India’ initiative. This made Agusta Westland eligible to participate in defence deals worth Rs 25,000 crore.
The Rs 3,600 crore AW101 helicopter deal for VVIP choppers was cancelled by UPA in 2014 and the guarantee money confiscated after allegations of payoffs running into hundreds of crores. UPA claimed the Italian company had breached an integrity pact, as commissions were paid to modify altitude specifications for the lucrative contract in which 12 VVIP transport helicopters were to be supplied to India. The tragedy is that if Courts of Appeal in Milan had not taken up the matter, it could easily have been swept under the carpet. The Italian court has sentenced Giuseppe Orsi, chief of Agusta Westland’s parent company Finmeccanica, to a four-and-a-half year jail term. In stark contrast, the NDA government claims that investigations are now at an advanced stage, but it doesn’t appear close to finding the guilty even after two years in office.
The country’s security apparatus needs urgent upgrades but dark clouds of corruption have always loomed over defence acquisitions. The legacy of Bofors means that even the slightest hint of impropriety is enough to jeopardise deals. But holdups in defence acquisitions also lead to high cost escalations. French Rafale fighter planes, for example, were selected in 2012, but the deal is yet to see the light of day. The veil of secrecy on defence deals must be lifted and we must evolve norms for the highest standards of transparency and probity, incorporating best practices from advanced western democracies.
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