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Barak Missile Scandal

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Sunanda K. Chavan
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Barak Missile Scandal - October 29th, 2010

Barak Missile Scandal: At another point Jain also says that he had received another Rs 1 crore for the Samata Party from Suresh Nanda to help swing the contract for an air-to-air and surface-to-surface missile system for the Indian Navy. Nanda was an agent for the Israel Aircraft Industries who make the Barak missile.

These tapes were the result of a clandestine sting operation and are not admissible as evidence in court. However, the videos (and the media furore following it) resulted in the Central Bureau of Investigation conducting its own investigation, based on which R.K. Jain was arrested in February 2006.

The Barak Missile Scandal is a case of defence corruption relating to the purchase of Barak Missile Systems by India from Israel. The case is currently under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation, and several people including the Samata Party ex-treasurer R.K. Jain have been arrested. Others named in the First Information Report include politicians George Fernandes and Jaya Jaitley, and arms dealer and ex-naval officer Suresh Nanda, who is the son of retired chief of naval staff S.M. Nanda.

The Barak missile system (jointly developed by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and RAFAEL Armament Development Authority of Israel) employs vertically launched missiles to counter anti-ship sea-skimming missiles and attacks by aircraft. On October 23, 2000, contracts had been signed by the Indian government to procure seven Barak systems at a total cost $199.50 million and 200 missiles at a cost of $69.13 million. This was done despite objections raised by several groups, including members of the team that had originally visited Israel to observe the missile performance, and APJ Abdul Kalam, then heading the Defence Research Development Organization.

Tehelka used a wily combination of impersonation, hidden cameras and bribery (all these being culpable offences under Indian Law) to get their tape recordings. The Government of India contends that if public interest was a prime concern, the tapes should not have gone public in such an explosive fashion. But on the other hand, it can be argued quite logically that if the tapes had not been revealed so spectacularly, they would have lost much of their impact. No doubt the largest party in the ruling alliance has been shaken, and some of their political allies unnerved.

The Defence Minister has resigned, and higher echelons of the armed forces have been tainted to some extent. India's opposition parties, led by the Congress (I) lost no time in calling for all sorts of "remedies". Tehelka has provided some political gains for the Congress (I). This leads us to the crux of the matter. What was the real purpose of this expose- Public interest or Tehelka's fame and fortune?
The ethical issues in this case remain anchored on two aspects.

One being the motivation for Tehelka.com to take up the issue of bribes and commissions in defence deals at this point of time, when far bigger cases such as Bofors and HDW are still unresolved. Was it journalistic vigilantism or self-interest that encouraged Tehelka reporters to give away large amounts of cash and take such risks? The other pertains to the method adopted- in befriending touts, feeding, wining and bribing them, and on false pretexts, recording their tall claims with hidden cameras, and finally offering these recordings as news to the public.
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