When the Bofors scandal rocked Indian polity in the mid-1980s, it had such a shock value that the then Congress chief and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was tainted forever, leading to his defeat in the 1989 general elections. However, times have really changed and, with corporate scams hitting us with an alarming frequency these days, the latest in the long and illustrious line of instances of crony capitalism hardly packs a punch except for its eerie similarity with the Bofors scam. The VVIP chopper deal of the Indian Air Force with the Italian company Finmeccanica, wherein kickbacks worth Rs 360 crore have allegedly been paid to middlemen in India, the three Tyagi musketeers, in order to facilitate the Rs 3,600 crore deal and tweak the tender in favour of AgustaWestland, the British helicopter manufacturing company , which is a subsidiary of the Italian defence behemoth, is, unfortunately, one of the several bribery and corruption scams that are systematically disembowelling the country’s economic and political well being. The fact that the alleged middlemen, who are cousins of the former Air Force Chief Shashi P Tyagi, called the Indian investigative officials ‘morons’, who would take years to unearth the gross misconduct, points out the general public attitude towards the pervasive callousness and sheer apathy on the part of the government machinery and its various appendages that routinely fail in ensuring transparent and corruption-free transactions at every level of their operations.
While the Italian police have arrested the Finmeccanica chairman and chief executive Giuseppe Orsi and have put the chief of AgustaWestland, Bruno Spagnolini, in house arrest, India must do its bit to uncover the rotten eggs in the defence basket. Only last year, we were apprised of the aborted arms deal that the former Army Chief V K Singh came out with, wherein he claimed that he had been offered substantial bribes by a defence industry lobbyist for persuading the Indian Army to procure hundreds of sub-standard war trucks. Given that India is the world’s largest arms importer, engaged in proxy wars with parties in its own territories, can this uncontrolled culture of corruption and kickbacks in the defence industry be tolerated any more? India is saddled with ammunitions that are out of date, and despite a humongous procurement drive in the recent decades, the lucrative arms market has been kept hostage to the fancies of international defaulters, thanks to the battery of middlemen and brokers like the Tyagi trio, who would not bat an eyelid before selling off the country for petty personal gains. Fortunately, the current political vacuum in Italy after the unceremonious exit of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, has provided a window of oppor tunity in the European country to bring to light a tiny slice of the maze of malfeasance, nepotism and profiteering there. India should follow suit and bring the culprits to book as quickly as possible.