Augusta Westland Helicopter Controversy, A Few Points

As I was listening to debate of Agusta Westland Chopper deal in Rajya Sabha, the following points emerged from the speech of Dr. Subrahmaniam Swamy and Mr. Manohar Parrikar, Defence Minister of India: 

  • The altitude at which helicopter would be flying was reduced from 6000 meters to 4500 meters. Height of 6000 meters, roughly 18000 feet was recommended to avoid being hit by shoulder held rockets.
  • Cabin height was agreed to 1.8 metre. It was suggested that this height was agreed upon keeping in view height of security personnel of Special Protection Group (SPG). According to Dr. Swamy, cabin height was altered to narrow down the choice of helicopter to Augusta – Westland.
  • The helicopter was tested abroad; The helicopter that was purchased was not tested in field trial. Because the chosen helicopter was still in development. A different but representative helicopter was tested.
  • When tested in Kashmir, the chosen helicopter did not meet many of the criteria set by the security forces. The competitor helicopter did meet most of the criteria. Yet, Agusta Westland was chosen as the supplier.
  • The price of the helicopter package was originally around 750 crores of rupees. The quote increased to 4600 crores rupees. The elevated price quote was accepted then the vendor brought the price down to 3600 crore. 
  • According to Mr. Manohar Parrikar, price of each helicopter was padded up by at least 60 – 70% over the original price.
  • The previous VVIP choppers was used 29% of full capacity.  Yet the government went on to buy 4 additional machines over and above the desired 8 helicopters.
  • During trial in Italy of Agusta Westland officials, Indian government did not supply necessary documents to Italian court.
Probably standalone, all these points may not appear to be unusal. Taken together, however, it may indicate that a condition was being created to arrive at one chosen vendor. Can an army chief alone undertake such a task? Was he being pressurised or forced or induced to take decision in a certain way? All this should be revealed only by an impartial enquiry.  

Italian judge has given interview to Indian TV channels that a hand written note that emerged during proceedings of trial in Italy, has been authenticated. The note described distribution of money to bureaucrats, politicians and family of air chief.  It is for certain that bribe has been paid. Question is who all received the money. Only an enquiry should make things clear. 

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