Rafale’s your right, says Rahul, makes common cause with HAL
Congress president addresses the PSU’s current and former staff; slams Modi govt for ‘snatching’ deal, accuses it of ‘brazen corruption’ to help Anil Ambani
UNDER the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)’s coveted Tejas installation at Minsk square in Bengaluru, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday accused the Narendra Modi government of brazen corruption. In an interaction with current and former employees of HAL along with trade union members, he tore into Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for questioning the capacity of HAL to manufacture Rafale but not raising as much as a finger about Anil Ambani’s company. Despite referring to the meeting as an ‘apolitical’ event, former employees ended up patronising the Congress and condemning the Union government.
“This Rafale aircraft is your right. You have the experience to build the plane,” he told the gathering. “Every person here made it clear their future is being taken away. We are defending those who are defending the nation from this government,” he told the media after his round-table interaction with former and current employees of HAL.
The event fit perfectly into the ‘pro-PSU’ narrative that the Congress has been carefully building around the Rafale deal. A round-table setup to build a ‘one amongst you’ perception worked in favour of Gandhi who went about shaking hands with people soon after his arrival.
Despite a directive from the management asking employees not to attend the event, dozens of employees of the HAL in uniform and ID cards walked into the makeshift venue set up right opposite the PSU’s corporate office. Former employees even addressed the gathering highlighting the ‘insult’ meted out to them by the Union government.
Many employees were not willing to talk about their participation. Former staff attributed it to the atmosphere of fear created by the HAL management.
“For the first time, I am seeing them issue a circular, directing employees not to attend this function. Many employees would have come but because of the situation of fear they have not. It is illegal, illogical and uncalled for,” said Sirajuddin, an exemployee who served the company for 40 years.
Gandhi also demanded the government apologise for deeming HAL incapable of manufacturing Rafale jets.
FORMER employees of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) spoke up against the NDA government and the Rafale aircraft deal during a meeting with All India Congress Committee (AICC) President Rahul Gandhi in the city on Saturday. The meeting, which began around 4 pm, saw former employees claim that they’d continue to fight to keep HAL’s reputation intact.
“We feel insulted, we are a reputed company. Do you want to kill this industry? It is insult and injury to give our engineers jobs to a 12-day old company. For the first time I am seeing them issue a circular, directing employees not to attend this function. Many employees would have come but because of fear they have not. It is illegal, illogical and uncalled for,” said Sirajuddin, an ex-employee of HAL who said that he had worked with the company for 40 years and through three wars.
Mahadevan, a former general secretary of the HAL employees union, said that there was no doubt about HAL’s capability to work on the Rafale deal.
“Someone in a position of responsibility says that we (HAL) do not have the capability. HAL is legitimately entitled to get the Rafale project. We are now 75 years old. Next month we will meet in Athens to bring up this issue in front of the international forum of trade unions. Governments cannot give up on the public sector,” he said.
Gandhi, speaking at the start of the meeting, reaffirmed his faith in the company and said that the country owed a debt to HAL for creating a scientific vision for progress. “When Obama said the only countries that can challenge the US were India and China, it was because of the work you have done too,” he said.
Shivalingaiah of the HAL SC/ ST employees association, said that the current situation at HAL was dire. “50% of workers are jobless. The aircraft division is jobless. Everybody knows HAL will close in five years because there are no projects,” he said.
N Umesh, a former employee and a member of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, said that there would be a 48-hour strike by trade unions on October 27-28.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi addresses past and present employees of the Hindustan Aeronautics in Bengaluru on Saturday |
AICC President Rahul Gandhi while meeting with former HAL employees at Minsk Square on Saturday |