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Rafale: Does The Economy Permit Such An Expense Over Fighter Jets?

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The Rafale fighter jet is finally in India. Ambala airbase is embellished with five of them. Stationing Rafale at Ambala airbase is hypothesised as highly tactical because the distance of the Line of Actual Control and Line of Control from the airbase is adjacent. And both the lines happen to come in the vicinity of Rafale’s ambit.

But the question is, what made the deal of those 36 fighter jets even before its arrival shook the substratum of Indian parliament? The credibility of the apex court of the country was on the line of fire. The politics from the streets of the village gave birth to the sloganeering that India has never witnessed ever before.

Rafale
Does the economy of the State permits such an expense over fighter jets?

What is Rafale? Dassault (French Aircraft Manufacturing Company) is a radish of which La Ferme due to which Indian politics was tottering? Is there wizardry behind the agility and firepower of Rafale, therefore, it would send shivers down the spines of the troops of Pakistan and China? In this generation, the Rafale is possessed neither by China or Pakistan? There are numerous spiking questions with regards to Rafale. But this needs to be traced back to an incident that took place 66 years ago in the national capital.

In a similar environment, four Fighters Jets landed at then Palam Airport (now IGI Airport) which were also acquired from Dassault Aviation, France. Back then socialites held then Prime Minister Pandit J L Nehru answerable for those four Fighter Jets. They questioned Nehru: does the economy of the State permits such an expense over fighter jets? Late Ram Manohar Lohia on the streets of Delhi said that the Indian economy was not a robust treasury where the Indian government could use citizen’s money to acquire those fighter jets.

After independence, that was the first time when India made an international deal of procuring fighter jets, and that every company happens to be Dassault Aviation of France. Nehru answered his critics on the floor of the parliament and said that if it occurred that the funds used to procure the fighter jets were somehow affecting the industrialisation of the country, if it gave rise to a farm crisis or if there were any financial setbacks, he would apologise to the nation. Fortunately, no such eventuality was recorded.

But in today’s case, one shall not question the financial status of the country. The question that lies ahead of us today is about Rafale. When 66 years ago four fighter jets landed in Delhi’s Palam Airport, there were enough spectators to witness the greatness then, unfortunately in the absence of today’s media presence.

There is a humongous bay between the scenario today and the state of affairs 66 years ago. Back then, it was about Security, Protection of Borders; Nehru was crystal Clear on those dots. Contradictory to today’s plight, if we happen to analyse the international status quo, it’s just about 5 Rafale Aircrafts arrivals, and the rest 31 Rafale will not be acquired. There is a prolonged inventory. 31 Rafale jets still await. Prescribe inventory as follows:

  • MiG 29, 21 are ordered from Russia
  • Sukhoi Su-30, 12 are ordered from Russia
  • AWACS Embraer R-99 from Brazil
  • Beriev A-50, two are ordered from Russia
  • Dornier 228, four are ordered from Germany
  • Boeing AH-64 Apache, from Israël for Surveillance

This inventory is every lasting where every country will keep joining. If we happen to look at the naval airbase; Boeing P-8 Poseidon, four of those have been ordered from the United States.

Looking at these orders, one wonders about the roadmap of India amid the economic blues. The government is busy modernising the armed forces. And undoubtedly it is the need of the hour. Safeguarding the borders is the utmost priority and boosting the morale of armed forces is equally imperative.

During WWII Europe was wrecked and dismantled by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, all the airbases were obliterated and that is exactly when France gave birth to Dassault Aviation in order to manufacture the fighter jets. Nehru struck a deal with Dassault in 1953 who then manufactured OURAGEN, later it was named Toofani by Nehru on its arrival at Palam Airport.

October 1953 was when India procured 4 of those. Around 550 fighter jets were manufactured by Dassault later down the line, which surfaced in the international market for the first time. India then acquired around 100 of them (new and used combined) followed by Israel who procured 75. Similarly, Rafale is no immunity booster vaccine exclusively for our armed forces. Egypt will be acquiring 36 Rafale, and oddly, Egypt will be getting these jets allegedly at a lower price than India. Qatar, a country smaller than India’s southernmost state Kerala will be procuring 24 Rafale Jets.

The larger picture here one must focus on is: Nehru then struck deals with Dassault in 1953 and later in 1957 for another 100 Mystère IV, then Jaguar. The inventory goes on and on. Dassault and India share a strong history.

Coming to the next bone of contention, is Rafale the next-gen fighter jet that Pakistan and China will not be able to parry its attacks? Pakistan’s strongest and powerful jet is the F16 which happens to lie between 4 and 4.5 gen, and Rafale happens to be of 4.5 gen. On the other hand, there is Fighter Jet J20, which was manufactured by China and they claim it to be 5th gen. Rafale lately has been used in Afghanistan, Syria and Libya. In contrast, J20 hasn’t been used yet. So, all these technicalities shall be left for Twitteratis to debate on.

After the procurement of Rafale, is India steadily heading towards the modernisation of its armed forces or will it just be a spade of ace under the label of recognition in the international market because the inventory is merely never-ending for procurement of arms and ammunition,

The state of affairs is baffling, turnover of the world’s top 20 arms manufacturers in the last 6 decades per se, there is no other manufacturing sector with such high numbers. It’s even more perplexing because post-WWII, United Nations was founded with the idea of eradication the concept of the war in itself, ironically Dassault is born in that very wrecked Europe. It’s revenue today is almost 20 times the economy of France then. Today their profit is beyond a million times as of then. The revenue of Dassault Aviation as of 2019 is €7.341 Billion, more than the combined revenue of the top 5 Indian Companies.

rafale
Rafale is just a fighter jet that will strengthen the defence and offence subsequently. It certainly is not diagnosing the marred state of affairs.

India is procuring arms and fighter jets from 16 countries. India is on its way towards the modernisation of its arm force, ready to pay the price, an incredible market. The world has laid eyes on us. So when Rafale landed in Ambala, there were applause in France and every arms manufacturing company. But what’s puzzling here is, in the given pandemic, are arms and ammunition being sold to India in order create a ground zero for war?

With Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and might I add the Maldives as well in a similar situation, is modernisation of the Indian Armed Forces the most important factor today. And for that, the deal of procurement of arms are being struck with those very countries who are sending the message across the globe.

Recently Iran successfully experimented a missile, who is Iran sending a message to? Who is the United States sending a message to via Iran? Who is Russia sending a message to via Ukraine? Amid this strategic pandemonium, may that be the Arab world or other countries which have been through civil wars, where have the arms been coming from in the last 5–7 years for them? It’s coming from those very countries against whose policies they’ve been standing tall and led to civil wars and eventually political mayhem.

The UPA government then struck a deal with Dassault for 125 Rafale costing ₹600Cr/Rafale, but now the NDA Govt bought 36 Rafale costing ₹1600Cr/Rafale. Egypt and Qatar will acquire Rafale at a much lower price than India.

Back in 2015, the current PM vouched for “Make In India”, especially in terms of defence. Deals were tabled, doors for FDI were open once again, foreign companies invested their money, but no company sold their technology to India. India had to buy technologies from foreign companies. Rafale cannot be manufactured in India, India has no such technology; eventually, India had to buy it from Dassault. Which means in the defence sector India has not progressed in the direction of “Make In India”.

Despite this, Dassault Aviation, ever since its founding year, has never struck the deal to sell its manufacturing technology to any country till date. Then under what circumstances did Dassault kowtow to Reliance and strike a deal to set up a manufacturing unit in Nagpur?

There is land adjacent to Nagpur Airport which has a hoarding written, “Dassault Reliance Aerobase Limited”. That company belongs to Indian mogul Anil Ambani. The company made a deal with Dassault. The company which sold its first fighter jet to India in the early 1950s bought by Nehru. Since then to date on the production level, Dassault has never made any deal with any country. However, there are Dassault sales units in China, Greece, Malaysia, Oman, Russian, Taiwan; but there is no production industry.

There are service centres across the globe, may that be in China, the United States, Brazil. Dassault has six manufacturing centres in France, namely, St Cloud, Argenteuil, Barthes, Marinek, Telins and Chlorinile. And then mysteriously one happens to be in Nagpur, named Dassault Reliance Aerobase Limited (joint venture). However, the infrastructure has not been set up, and the land happens to be uneaten and unaccustomed. How on earth would this deal come through and this scenario be plausible is the question.

Recently India procured Mirage, which was used during Kargil and recently in Balakot. One wonders about the kickbacks. Then Bofors appears in every layman’s head. But when Bofors proved its worth during Kargil, its potential was out of the question then. Similarly, Rafale will also be tested, if there happens to be a war-like situation against China.

Ultimately, for how long will India scurry away from the dereliction of the economy and veil it with the modernisation of armed forces and lay the red carpet of hyper-nationalism? Rafale is just a fighter jet that will strengthen the defence and offence subsequently. It certainly is not diagnosing the marred state of affairs.

Finally, if one tries and travel through 7 decades of independence, India has been through financial turmoil ever since. Perhaps that was the reason, under the governance of Nehru, Lal Bahadur Sashtri or Indira Gandhi, the defence budget was always unlikely subsidised. Transparency was always the key factor during their regimes. But today transparency is dead, buried somewhere underneath Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna 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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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