Rafale Deal Row: Rahul Gandhi Meets HAL Employees in Bengaluru, Says Hindustan Aeronautics a Strategic Asset For India
Rahul Gandhi meets HAL employees (Photo credit: ANI)

Bengaluru, October 13: Congress president Rahul Gandhi met some working and retired employees of the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). Rahul Gandhi interacted with employees of the HAL  in the context of the defence behemoth not getting offset contract from the French company Dassault Aviation for Rafale fighter jet deal.

Speaking at the event, Gandhi called the HAL a strategic asset of the country. "HAL is not just a company. When India got independence, India built some strategic assets to enter specific areas. HAL is a strategic asset to take India into aerospace. The work you have done for this country is tremendous&the country owes a debt to you," the Congress chief said.

Gandhi said he came to the HAL plant to understand problems and challenges faced by the employees. Though the company has advised its employees to stay away from the meeting as per the employment rules and service conditions, a few of them met Gandhi along with their retired colleagues and express their concerns over the Rafale deal and other issues.

"We have been insulted and let down. A company of 70 years of experience is thrown out of the Rafale agreement. I do not understand. A large and experienced company that should have been improved. You are killing us," Sirajuddin, a retired employee of the HAL, said. "For the first time in my life, I have seen the government issuing a directive advising employees against attending an event," he added.

Prior to his visit to HAL plat in Bengaluru, Gandhi said there was a need to “defend the dignity of India’s defenders” as he accused the Narendra Modi government of “snatching” the Rafale offset contract from HAL and “gifting” it to Anil Ambani’s company. “HAL is India’s strategic asset. The future of India’s aerospace industry has been destroyed by snatching #Rafale from HAL & gifting it to Anil Ambani,” the Congress president tweeted.

Gandhi has been targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government over the Rafale deal with France and asking why a 70-year-old defence public sector company Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd was ignored for manufacturing the fighter jet.

A French news portal -Mediapart- recently quoted Dassault Aviation's deputy CEO as saying that Reliance Defence was given to the French company as an 'obligatory' offset partner for the Rafale deal. In its earlier report, the French website had quoted former French President Francois Hollande as saying that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government had proposed Reliance Defence as the partner for the deal.

Reacting to the reports, Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier said the choice to select the Indian partner was given to Dassault Aviation as per the Indian regulation. "Signing an offset contract is a requirement of Indian law (Defence Procurement Procedure). The implementation of offsets is an obligation and, under the Indian regulation, the choice of the partners belongs to us," the Dassault Aviation CEO was quoted as saying.