The AgustaWestland helicopters scandal in which kickbacks, estimated at Rs.3,700 crore, have allegedly been paid to several middlemen — including Air Marshal (Retd.) S.P. Tyagi, former chief of the Indian Air Force, and Dubai-based broker Christian Michel, now in CBI custody for customising the Union government’s tender specifications to suit the Anglo-Italian AgustaWestland — seems to have worked the country’s print media leader writers and loud telly news anchors into a right lather. But curiously, these erudite worthies seem to have been blind-sided about the original sin of the AgustaWestland scandal.
This original sin which nobody seems to have noticed, is that the 12 helicopters proposed to be purchased by the Union government were additions to the reportedly 16-strong VVIP fleet of airplanes maintained by the Central government to fly its ministers and flunkeys around the country and beyond in the royal style to which our rulers have become accustomed ever since newly independent India adopted the socialistic pattern of society in 1956. The natural question is why does the neta-babu establishment, already well-served with every perquisite of office one can think of including free housing, air travel, telecom, office rent, air-conditioning and personal security etc, need to be provided helicopters as well?
Given that the country’s 3.8 million Central government employees consume almost 25 percent of the Centre’s annual budgeted revenue, it’s galling that the media acquiesces to such molly-coddling of politicians who waste half — and often entire sessions — of Parliament by staging walkouts and demos in the wells of the Lok and Rajya Sabha.
And what about the cynicism of the political class which not only gifts itself a totally undeserved luxury perk at public expense, but also plots and schemes to earn illegal commissions on its huge price tag? Little wonder that the appointment of the Lokpal (ombudsman) with extensive power to probe official corruption, promised by the General Election 2014 manifestoes of every major political party, has disappeared from the public discourse.