Embezzlement has always been sort of a globalised practice, but what has changed in the 21st century is not just its pace or scale, but the sheer complacency as well as a general inured, hardened attitude with which it is being viewed by us. All the outrage looks stagey and meant for the television screens only, wherein news anchors and political pundits squabble over issues in a holier-than-thou manner, only to obfuscate the real and core problems that are staring our country in the face. The latest VVIP chopper scam exposé attests to how far and wide the net of corruption has been cast, and how, more than ever, the public office bearers in India have been proved to be charlatans and fraudsters of the highest order, who hide behind masks of integrity, honesty and a pseudo-nationalist zeal. As skeletons tumble out of the cupboard of the now withheld AgustaWestland helicopter deal between the Indian Air Force and the Italian defence corporation Finmeccanica, the ignominious roles of more and more top officials are coming to the fore. In this malodourous environment of lies and cover ups, what stands out as the most pungent is the involvement of the Tyagi brothers, well known defence industry bookies, whose kinship with the former Air Force Chief S P Tyagi has called to question the latter’s claim to moral and ethical uprightness.
Although few reports of the copter tender being tweaked in 2006 to favour the Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland had been circulating in the Indian print media, including this newspaper which was the first to write about the possibility of kickbacks being offered to facilitate the deal, why was the government sitting duck on the issue till now? Why did the Defence Minister not push the matter more forcefully? Why was the investigation brought to a grinding halt after merely exchanging letters with the Italian authorities? As in the case of the latest installment in the 2G scam drama, is it not in the interest of CBI, (which of course genuflects before its master the government of India and its various ministries) and by implication the Defence Ministry, to probe deeper? Will the sanctity of the Indian Air Force be compromised if still more murky details of this shady deal are brought to light? Who else would be shown to be a beneficiary of this clearly extensive kickback culture? Who else, within the Indian half of this dubious Indo-Italian transaction, would come up with gems as Guido Haschke, the European middleman implicated in this unscrupulous operation, did, claiming that the boodles worth Rs 400 crore were exhausted on ‘champagne and ballerinas’? Obviously, it is clear that arresting and punishing Julie Tyagi and his brothers as soon as possible would be equivalent to just scratching the surface of this mountain of corruption, but, nevertheless, it will be the stepping-stone towards delivering justice.