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Hatching JPC to bury choppergate?

With the government having moved and passed a motion to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe into the controversial Rs. 3,600 crore VVIP AgustaWestland helicopter deal, matters have taken a new turn. While it is true that the issue of kickbacks in the purchase of these helicopters needs to be probed urgently in order to identify the bribe-takers, the constitution of a JPC may not be the best way to go about it. Members of Parliament are not empowered to investigate into the matter in the fullest range that is required for the truth to come out, and appointing a JPC probe could be seen as an effective way to scuttle debates and disturbances in Parliament and save the skin of the Congress and other cross-party satraps who are involved in this nexus of extensive pay-offs. It is for the government to order its investigative agencies to thoroughly probe the matter in order to arrive at the truth. Ideally, the investigation should be completed before the issue goes up to any JPC, as the matter is complicated and the scandal has an international dimension. However, the objectives of setting up the JPC look poised to one, kill any fruitful and lasting investigation into the affair so as to unearth the complex money trail spanning three continents, and two, to ensure its least impact on the Congress party’s fortunes in the forthcoming Parliamentary elections.

Although the arrests in Italy have clarified to the public that bribes were taken in the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters from the Italian aerospace and defence giant Finmeccanica for the purpose of ferrying around the Indian prime minister and other dignitaries, all norms had been thrown to the winds in the acquisition of these copters. In fact, these AW101 choppers that were bought ostensibly for VVIP security, and were manufactured by the British subsidiary of Finmeccanica, had even been previously turned down by the Obama administration as being too costly and not up to the standard. Yet, the purchase of these helicopters was cleared by no less a dignitary than the clueless prime minister of India, who heads the committee on security like a blind king, and the deal was vetted by the defence ministry. These is no explanation even for the urgency in buying these. It is not as if India does not have the capacity to make transport helicopters. In fact, India has has a fairly developed indigenous aerospace industry which needs to be fostered. By even agreeing to buy foreign-made helicopters whose technical standards are suspect, the Indian government has sent the wrong message to the world community and to the indigenous defence community. This is besides the immense losses to the Indian economy caused by the cost of these helicopters and the loss of precious foreign exchange reserves at a time when the economy is not doing well. The government must rise above political considerations and hold an impartial inquiry to identify the culprits and not depend on the JPC to do so.
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