New Delhi: Employees of public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Lt. (HAL) have accused the Narendra Modi government of “conspiring” to "bleed and shut down" the aerospace firm.
At a press conference here on Thursday, the employees, claiming to represent about 10,000 employees in Bengaluru, also demanded that the company be made a partner of Dassault Aviation and be given the contract for making the remaining tranche of 90 Rafale aircraft under Transfer of Technology (ToT) route, as per reports.
According to PTI, the employees held the press conference after meeting Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who had recently had a war of words with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament over the Rafale deal.
As per News18, the HAL employees claimed that the decision to not allow a ToT clause in the renewed deal under which 36 Rafale jets had been bought, had adversely hit the 78-year-old public sector undertaking.
“When in their annual report Dassault chairperson had claimed that HAL was its partner, when Dassault and HAL had signed mutual workshare agreement, when HAL can build a 25 tonne Sukhoi, then what was the difficulty in making Rafale jets,” Renuka S, ex-general secretary and former chief convenor of the All India Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd Trade Union Coordination Committee, was quoted as saying.
The employees also backed the Congress president’s view that the Defence Minister was “undermining” the defence PSU and accused her "attempting to build a false narrative" that HAL is incapable of building the Rafale fighter jet.
Renuka said the BJP-led NDA government had, in fact, made no investments in the PSU and accused it of "siphoning" money in terms of buyback and dividends from the PSU.
"There is a systematic conspiracy to bleed and shut down HAL by the present government. The present government has paid Rs 20,000 crore in advance for buying the Rafale to Dassault Aviation without delivery of a single aircraft. On the other hand, HAL has not been paid Rs 14,000 crore for aircraft, helicopters that have already been delivered," he added.
On Monday, dismissing the Congress' allegations based on media reports on the order book of HAL, Sitharaman had said in the Lok Sabha said contracts amounting to over Rs 26,570.80 crore had been signed between 2014-18 by the HAL and orders worth Rs 73,000 crore were in the pipeline. All these together amounted to Rs 1 lakh crore, she added.
But, News18 citied a statement issued by HAL employees of HAL suggesting that Sitharaman’s statement in Parliament that Rs 73,000 crore of orders for HAL were in the pipeline was “misleading”.
“We have total orders worth Rs 1.28 lakh crore. Of this Rs 26,570 crore of orders have come from the Modi government. This effectively means that HAL is running only on the orders of the UPA,” the report said citing HAL employees.
On the issue of HAL borrowing to pay salaries, K Satish, another HAL union member, said at the press conference that “Against our demand for Rs 19,334 crore only Rs ,6415 crore was given to us, this is why we had to borrow money to pay our employees’ salaries. On the contrary, the Modi government has withdrawn Rs 11,024 crore from HAL. In 2015-16, Defence Minister ordered an ‘equity buyback scheme’ that required HAL to transfer Rs 6393 crore to the government.”