The controversy over the mega-billion Rafale fighter jet deal refuses to die. In the latest development, a media report has detailed how the Narendra Modi government's 2015 decision exponentially increased the price of each fighter jet. The report says that the deal bypassed the procedures despite some serious objections raised by top defence brass. 'The Hindu' report says that the 2015 decision caused the price of Rafale jets to go up by 41%. According to the report, Manmohan Singh-led UPA government had decided to buy 126 Rafale aircraft in 2007. The 2007 bid meant India was buying 18 fighter jets in ‘fly-away’ condition and 108 were to be made in India.
In 2015, the Modi government surprised everyone and signed the deal with France for the multi-role fighter jets. But instead of 126, India now settled for 36 fighter jets. This is where the problem comes. 'The Hindu' reports that the Dassault Aviation had quoted 1.4 billion euros as the 'design and development' cost. At that time, this cost was supposed to be divided into 126 fighter jets. In 2016, this cost came down to 1.3 billion euros after tough negotiations. But due to the lesser number of aircraft, the price per jet increased as much 41%."This straightaway meant an increase of 25 million euros in the price of each aircraft as compared with the UPA-era bid by Dassault," 'The Hindu' report said.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram attacked the Modi government citing 'The Hindu' report. "In the light of new facts and revelations in THE HINDU, the question gains greater urgency: why did the government buy only 36 Rafale aircraft instead of 126 aircraft required by the Air Force," Chidambaram asked on Twitter. He also alleged that "the government has compromised national security by denying to the Air Force the 7 squadrons (126 aircraft) that it desperately needs."
The Government has compromised national security by denying to the Air Force the 7 squadrons (126 aircraft) that it desperately needs.— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) January 18, 2019
The CPI(M) also attacked the Modi government and said that "lid over the mammoth #RafaleScam coverup blown. Modi's decision bypassing mandated procedures & made in the face of official objections resulted in €1.3 billion ‘non-recurring’ cost. All to favour Anil Ambani's Reliance."
Meanwhile, the Comptroller and Auditor General has refused to disclose details about its audit in the controversial Rafale aircraft deal, saying the process is not yet complete and any disclosure at this stage will amount to a breach of the Parliament's privilege, an RTI reply said. In its response to Pune-based activist Vihar Durve who had sought the report from CAG, the country's auditor said, "The audit is under progress and the report is yet to be finalised. The information cannot be given under Section 8(1)(C) of the RTI Act as the disclosure would cause breach of Parliament". Section 8(1)(C) of the Right To Information (RTI) Act exempts information the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature.
Last month, the Supreme Court had dismissed pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale jets, saying there was no occasion to "really doubt the decision making process" warranting setting aside of the contract.