Flying Coffins

Yet another MiG-21 Fighter aircraft crashed in Punjab. Luckily the pilot escaped unhurt. We have seen a spate of such crashes before. In fact, more than 150 Indian fighter planes have crashed in the past 10 years. Each aircraft costs about Rs 100 crore, the cost of the training of pilots is about Rs 23-45 crore per pilot. No doubt then that the loss of a pilot, apart from being a loss of human life, is a heavy cost to the exchequer.

MiG-21 AircraftDefence officials have been shamelessly maintaining that human fault is one of the major reasons for crashes. Air Chief Marshall Krishnaswamy has even gotten to the length of comparing MIG crashes to road accidents in India. Grieving families, journalists and common citizens have raised their voices several times and demanded the grounding of these flying coffins. But it hardly rings a bell. Inducted in 1963 the Russian-made MiGs still remain the proud possession of the IAF. Despite these being old, the IAF still relies a lot on MiGs and used them even during the Kargil operations to blast enemy positions.

Why then! Do we have lack of training facilities for our pilots? Sure we have. Then why don’t we arrange better training facilities? In 1985 an IAF Committee had recommended that it should acquire the Advanced Jet Trainers (AJT). Acquisition of 66 aircraft was sanctioned in 1986. However, they are yet to be acquired. One official said :

Had we bought the AJTs 10 years back, it would have cost us one-fifth of what they would now. Perhaps, if an odd Air Chief had resigned on the issue to drive home the point, it would have registered and placed the responsibility squarely on the government.

Tehelka had dis-robed the shady deals taking place in the backyards of Ministry of Defence. But it clearly seems that some vested interests are responsible for continuing with these perilous aircraft and denying the pilots better training.


Might is right

A perfect case of how the people in power can use it for personal gains. Indian politics has been known for it. Leaders holding posts leave no stone unturned to take vendetta. (Tamilnadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha had publicly humiliated Karunannidhi by dragging him to Police station at midnight.)

The way politicians set the tunes to their favour was displayed in the recent proclaimation by the Centre that Prime Minister A B Vajpayee, deputy premier L K Advani and Union HRD minister Murli Manohar Joshi had no role whatsoever in demolition of the Babri structure. The counsel of the Centre remarked:

The sadhus and sants were leaders of the Ayodhya movement. Vajpayee, Advani or Joshi were only supporting the movement as leaders of the BJP.

This despite the fact the Uma Bharti was publicly seen feeding sweets to Advani after the demolition had taken place. The blame was very conviniently put on Kalyan Singh who was quick enough to hit back holding Vajpayee and Advani reposnisble for the mishap.

Agreed, public memory is known to be short, but does the government think that the citizens are deaf and dumb too?


We learnt nothing from past follies

atal-in-chinaPrime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s China Visit had to be hyped keeping the ensuing Polls in mind. And India media, in its frenzy, fulfilled BJPs ambitions in all innocence. A respected journalist Inder Malhotra rightly pointed out:

“As has happened all too often in the past and is most certain to be repeated in the future, the media contingent accompanying him went into a tizzy of exaggeration and hyperbole.”

As Inder said, despite of the media projections of the visit restoring the “Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai” (Indo-Chinese brotherhood) kinship again it was more of “Hindi-Chini Buy-buy” with India succumbing to Chinese pressure and perhaps for the first time recognizing Tibet as part of China writing off the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans who have been continuing their “religious activities” under the Indian shelter (in Dharamsala) for long.

While conceding to the Chinese demand Vajpayee came home gratified with the oral assurance of a change in their Sikkim policy in the future. Indian Media had very falsely rejoiced earlier of China recognizing Sikkim as part of India. Apparently it was nothing of that sorts. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman had clarified that the Sikkim question is an enduring legacy of the past and said that “it cannot be solved overnight”.

Vajpayee’s “historic” visit may or may not emerge as fruitful on economic front but surely he returned home with a synthetic smile and a twisted arm.

And you thought Atalji was different? 🙂