Rafale deal: ‘Karnataka lost thousands of jobs’

BENGALURU: On the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's whirlwind electioneering in the state, Congress leaders demanded a judicial probe into the BJP-led NDA government's decision to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets from France, alleging that the Rs 36,000 crore deal denied job opportunities for thousands of local youth through the elimination of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) from the list of firms chosen for manufacturing components and sub-systems of these jets. 

On Monday, AICC media wing chief, Randeep Singh Surjewala, told press persons: “The Congress demands a probe into Modi government's decision to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets by a sitting Supreme Court judge to unravel the truth, including the inflated price involved in the deal.” 

The public exchequer was “duped” as these Rafale jets were purchased at nearly 300 per cent higher price compared to the bid during the UPA government, he claimed. 

“Shockingly, Dassault Aviation sold the same 48 Rafale aircraft to two other countries – Egypt and Qatar in 2015 for a mere Rs 1,319.80 crore per aircraft. Then why did India pay Rs 1,670.70 crore per Rafale aircraft, purchase of which was announced by Prime Minister on April 10, 2015? We are clearly paying an extra price of Rs 350.90 crore per aircraft or Rs 12,632 crore for 36 aircraft,” he added. 

Mr Surjewala alleged that by cancelling transfer of technology to HAL, the Modi government denied thousands of job opportunities and Rs 36,000 crore investment in Karnataka through offset contract between HAL-Dassault Aviation.  

He charged that unilateral purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft by the Prime Minister suffered from “Complete non-transparency in disclosure of purchase price of aircraft; violation of the mandatory provisions of the defence procurement procedures; absence of prior clearance from Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs, sacrificing the national interest on transfer of technology to HAL and by-passing HAL on Rs 36,000 crore offset contract in favour of a company with zero percent experience in manufacture of fighter aircraft.

“This betrayal also was also exposed in a briefing by the Foreign Secretary on April 8, 2015 where it was declared that discussions were on between French company, the defence ministry and HAL which is involved in this,” Mr Surjewala said. 

Despite this public admission, Modi superseded HAL and betrayed Karnataka's interests within 48 hours by announcing off-the-shelf purchase of 36 Rafales on April 10, 2015 with zero role for HAL in manufacture or offset contracts, Surjewala said. 

He said the offset contract had been given to Reliance Aerospacestructure Limited. On the contrary, Surjewala said Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had claimed in a PIB release on February 7 this year that Dassault Aviation has not awarded the offset contract. “Simple question is, who is lying – Sitharaman or Reliance/Dassault Aviation? Hasn't the BJP MP from Karnataka, Sitharaman not deceived Karnataka’s interests?” Mr Surjewala asked.

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