Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally at Noorpur in Punjab, a day after sharing the stage with the state health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu who tested positive for the Wuhan Coronavirus on Tuesday. While demonstrating complete disregard for public health, Rahul Gandhi targeted the Prime Minister and the central government over the acquisition of VVIP planes.
The former Congress president said, “On one hand, PM Modi has bought two aircraft worth Rs 8000 crores. On the other hand, China is at our borders and our security forces are braving harsh cold to protect our borders.” He claimed that the plane “bought for more than Rs 8,000 crore of the taxpayers’ money, had not just a cushion but a whole lot of luxury beds for his comfort”.
However, the process for the procurement of these aircraft was initiated almost a decade ago while the UPA was in power and the current government has only brought the process to its logical conclusion, said sources in the know. We were further told that these aircraft belong to the Indian Air Force and not the Prime Minister. Furthermore, the aircraft will be used by other VVIPs as well.
As per sources, the procurement process began in 2011 when a meeting of Committee of Secretaries (CoS) was held on the direction of the Group of Ministers (GoM) wherein it was decided that an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) would examine the available options for the long term arrangement of VVIP aircrafts.
The same year, an IMG coordinated by Cabinet Secretariat was set up to consider all the options, including acquisition, management and utilization of aircraft for VVIP operations. The IMG met around ten times and submitted its recommendations the next year. Two options were recommended: the conversion of an existing B777 ER, or the usage of one of the new ones that were ordered by Air India but yet to be delivered.
Furthermore, were informed that the Cabinet Secretariat recommended transfer of the aircraft to the Indian Air Force in August, 2013. Thereafter, the process was brought to its logical conclusion. Also, the aircraft used for travel by VVIPs till now, the Air India Jumbo Jets, are over 25 years old. In addition to being incapable of long, trans-Atlantic flights, forcing halt enroute for refueling and replenishment purposes, they are also fuel guzzlers of epic proportions.