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

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE -

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 |

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