Tarmak007 -- A bold blog on Indian defence: Air (oh!) India! Did India’s star product got shunted out to a silly point during air show?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Air (oh!) India! Did India’s star product got shunted out to a silly point during air show?

The bribe-taint on the just-concluded Aero India is now getting murkier. This piece of news could give Mr Clean defense minister of India Arakkaparambil Kurian Antony sleepless nights, as it threatens Antony's constant call to embrace and brand home-grown defense products.
Top sources with a leading Bangalore-based Indian company say that their star product did not get the due it ought to have got in the static display area. After the news reports started coming out on the alleged money-for-prime-spot-deal orchestrated by Indian Air Force (IAF) official(s) during the show, sources actively involved with the company’s air show arrangements said that they had suspected some foul play then.
“We are shocked. But we were really annoyed when our products did not get the kind of visibility it merited. Some of us were very suspicious about the allotment of space at the static display area,” sources said.“It was very evident that the preferences were given to foreign companies. One of our best products which came to the show for the first time had to be pushed to an insignificant corner -- almost in the beginning of the chalet area. The best slots were taken away by the chosen ones,” sources said.
When asked why the Company did not bring the matter to the notice of the higher authorities officially, sources said: “We haven’t given any complaints in writing. We did internally raise objections to the kind of treatment we received this time. It was clear that something was amiss. But then considering our position as a company, we couldn’t do much and left the matter at that.”
Journalists no Saints: While the media might have got yet another scam emerging out of Indian defense set-up, this Aero India once again proved that they too are no saints when it came to accepting gifts and goodies. It was a sad picture to see many journos scrambling for the goodies in front of press conference counters. Some journalists were seen struggling to carry home the goods they gathered during the show. While some came with empty bags to stock the cool maals, some ensured that the ever-media-friendly-PR-managers kept their take-ways safe, in some cases when they missed them owing to their ‘pressing engagements.’In the name of Press kits, things have definitely crossed the decency limit. When last heard, a journalist managed to collect 14 different types of pen drives this time!
Shamelsss Babus: If journos always ‘live up’ to their expectations, what’s more rattling is how MoD babus too are increasingly becoming a ‘gifted lot.’ During every show, one could see how MoD babus roam around with their assistants, carrying bags overflowing with gifts. The joke that goes around Bangalore-based defense establishments is that there’s a standing instruction given to all that a certain number of carry bags with gifts must reach the babus without fail.
Gift India 2013? Going by the scams and mad rush for goodies, it is worth to think of a new name for the air show from the next edition. While Aero India has become a very common name, why not call it as Gift India 2013? While it is near impossible to clean-up Journalism and Babudom – a heady cocktail that can take anyone for an endless spin -- what can be done, is, to put in place a code of ethics to Indian and foreign companies while dealing with the press.
Gifts should be banned. Companies should just provide a brochure and a CD with photos\videos, if need be. That’s all and nothing else. It’s a shame if a journalist can’t get his\her own pen and notepad.

Amidst all this mess, Antony informed the Lok Sabha on March 7 that the size of the show in 2011 was much larger compared to the show conducted in the year 2009, on account of participation of civil aviation sector.While it is great to know that Aero India is growing, it is a matter of great concern that this growth is at the cost of suppressing home-grown products, if the latest media revelations are to be believed.
There are some rotten apples in the system bringing bad name to Indian defense establishment and it is definitely unfair to blame the responsibility entirely on Mr Antony. But, it is appalling that the scam chart of MoD is slowly, but steadily getting very active again. And, even Mr Antony might agree with this point! If he does, then he must act.
While various agencies are investigating the bribe episode at the air show, it is left to be seen whether similar incidents occurred even during previous editions of Aero India also. Will one link lead to another? Only time will tell.

T  R  U  T  H,   M A T T E R S
(The opinion expressed through this editorial column on Tarmak007
has nothing to do with the publication[s] the blogger write for.)

For regular updates, visit: https://www.facebook.com/Tarmak007