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The “Stolen” Rafale File Implicitly Points To The Country’s Democracy In Danger

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Modi government claimed before the Supreme Court that the Rafale file has been ‘stolen’. Image via Getty

I have been writing in my previous articles on the Rafale deal that the Modi government hasn’t seen the last of what has torpedoed its strategies for 2019 elections. Manipulated words in a sealed envelope supposedly having sensitive information about the deal, a redacted CAG report, stoutly refusing a JPC probe, booting out Alok Verma from CBI to sabotage an investigation into the deal, the government has been running from pillar to post to get rid of the stigma the deal has created. But it finds itself having to answer more questions in an open court.

I was shocked beyond words when the AG stated in court that the Rafale deal file with the Ministry of Defense (MoD) has been stolen. I fervently hope the AG and the government knows the implications of what they have said. There is a sea of difference between the words “missing” and “stolen”. Missing file implies the file has been lost and they are not able to find it – but stolen implies the government is aware that file has been taken away. So how does the government know the file has been taken away? What proof does it have that the file was stolen? Did anyone break into the MoD’s office? MoD is not a vegetable market where random people can walk in and out. Did they find out through CCTV visuals? The visitors log register?

Offices of high importance have biometric login and logout for employees and visitors. Moreover they will be frisked during entry and exit every day to ensure that they do not carry any non-office items in and out. Now the government has put itself in a position where it has to prove that the file has been stolen. Moreover, what does the law say about how to proceed with theft? Register an FIR and start formal investigation. Since when has the file been missing? Where are the FIR and investigation details? Which investigating body has been given the responsibility to find and retrieve the file since the file contains details pertaining to national security? Is there a crime scene? What information has the crime scene investigation team found? The government and the AG can be easily cornered with these and more questions.

The government had given a sealed envelope with the details of the deal to the court and had stated that it contains sensitive information about national security and had pleaded that it should not be revealed to the public. All that information obviously came from the Rafale file with the MoD. By stating that the file has been stolen, the government is pointing the finger squarely at itself for not being able to protect files of national security. This literally means it has thrown the Defense Minister under the bus. I am surprised that the court didn’t take a strong stand on these two points. The judges should have asked the government to prove that the file was stolen and summoned the Defense Minister to appear before the court. Now the Defense Minister has to take the responsibility and resign.

The impunity and insolence with which the government has so casually mentioned to the court that the file has been stolen points to a larger perspective of things. First of all, it shows that the government has no respect for the judiciary. The court has the jurisdiction to only pass judgments and they have to be implemented by the government and civil administration to become orders. It has become abundantly clear that the government and specifically the BJP will show no value to the judiciary’s judgments if they don’t fit into their scheme of things.

India signed an inter-governmental pact with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets a $9 billion worth deal. Image via Getty

The country has seen how the BJP and RSS openly violated SC’s Sabarimala judgement and tried to foment violence. It is clear by now that any judgement against this government will be ignored. A government undermining the judiciary and showing scant respect for it is a clear sign of eroding democratic values and the Constitution of the country in danger. In what kind of a democracy would a government appear before the apex court and have the audacity to state that files of national security have been stolen and nothing has been done about it?

Lastly, about a particular narrative. In 2014, one of the slogans that worked so effectively for Modi and BJP was “Congress mukt Bharat”. Over the last 5 years, it has changed to “If Congress can do it so can we”. For every debacle in governance or a scam coming to light, the blame has been put squarely on Nehru or Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi. This is like the story of the boy who cried wolf and how no one believed him when he was in real danger. People have stopped believing in BJP’s hollow narratives.

BJP and Modi would have had brought the country to a standstill with their rabble rousing if it was the Congress that had mentioned that the Bofors file was stolen. What Modi had promised was scam free and improved governance which is what people had voted for and not for preposterously lying in the highest court of the country to protect the business interests of his crony capitalist election-funding friends.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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