We have learned to believe that India is on the cusp of becoming a superpower. Seeing this kind of headline hurts.
Our fighter strength is so depleted that we are reduced to looking for discarded Russian planes from the 1980s that might be lying around. Yes, the valiant Indian Air Force is literally sifting through somebody else’s junkyard. Looking for something … anything to sustain itself.
If this does not make our heads hang down in shame, what will?
Meanwhile, the Indian opposition, backed by large sections of media, are carrying out a propaganda offensive to delay the Rafale acquisition. To delay it somehow, beyond the May 2019 elections. Their obvious hope is that if they get a chance to win power, they can scrap the Rafale deal and start the long process of giving the multi-billion dollar deal to someone else. To do it all again, possibly in the way the Congress has always done defence deals beginning with the jeep scam under Nehru.
They will stop at nothing. Sometimes, government defence-related documents are published in newspapers with parts of the same page cropped out to show a different picture. Sometimes “exposes” are made where potential deals with Airbus are passed off as deals with Dassault (the manufacturer of Rafale, a completely different company). Anything to throw the kitchen sink at Modi, publishing every possible lie and half-truth no matter how ludicrous, hoping that something sticks.
And our valiant Air Force continues to bleed. Think about the Air Force pilots who will have to fly these 40-year junk planes that we are purchasing from the Russian garbage dump in our desperation. Think about their families, their parents, their wives and husbands and their kids who are reading this newspaper headline. Their near and dear one will be flying a 40-year-old junk plane. Can you imagine how they feel?
It is not like the fear of dying in a decades-old junk plane is something new for our Air Force. A Mig-21 crashed in Jaisalmer only yesterday during a completely routine exercise. Thankfully, the pilot ejected safely.
But others have not been so lucky. Look at this report from Rajasthan Patrika shared by Twitter user Rishi Bagree.
Almost 97 planes lost to crashes in the last 12 years! That’s eight crashes per year. Like in all modern democracies, our military does not take political positions and is fully subject to civilian control. The least that they can expect from us is that we don’t send our best men and women out there in creaky old planes assembled quite literally from the junkyard.
It’s not too much to ask, is it?
A few days ago, quoting the fictional figure of Rs 30,000 crore “given” to some businessman, Rahul Gandhi said that these 30,000 crores could have been given to families of pilots when they die in plane crashes!
Elections will come. Elections will go. But the dignity of human life and the dignity of our nation should remain supreme.
Now close your eyes for a moment and picture the Indian Air Force sifting through a pile of 40-year-old junk lying in some garbage dump in Russia. Clearing the cobwebs, trying not to step on the rats. Looking for pieces to assemble planes. Then, our very best men and women in uniform will say goodbye to their families, their parents, their wives and husbands, their kids and go out to fly in those planes. Can you feel yourself shudder?