VVIP flying machines

What exactly is a VVIP helicopter? Who exactly qualifies to fly in it? And, why do Indian taxpayers need to spend more than Rs 3,600 crore to fly these VVIPs around? Where would they go and what for? These are questions that have troubled me more than most others about our latest defence scandal. When I say this, I am not in any way trying to diminish the excellent investigative journalism that caused this newspaper to become the first in India to report that there was bribery and corruption in the deal. Its just that as someone who has seen first hand the close relationship that arms dealers in Delhi have with VVIP politicians, bureaucrats and military men, I am always more surprised when defence deals are not corrupt. There is quite simply too much money involved and too many discretionary powers in the hands of diverse VVIPs for a few crores not to slip softly into the pockets of facilitators.

So, what I am more interested in is the label VVIP attached to the Italian choppers we were buying. Why should we be wasting money on the limited flying needs of our so-called VVIPs when our troops are forced to use ancient helicopters and decrepit transport aeroplanes? Why should we waste taxpayers' money on VVIP travel when we could do so much better by spending this money on upgrading living standards for the brave men guarding Siachen? From all accounts, their lives are so hard that soldiers are known to lose their minds if they stay too long. How sad that the requirements of our troops are rarely discussed except when war breaks out and we notice how badly equipped they are and how badly clad. Then for fifteen minutes we vent our ire on the VVIPs who rule us before returning once more to servile acceptance of their exalted status.

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