Nirmala Sitharaman insists there is no discrepancy in the HAL aircraft deal.
Officials of the Bengaluru-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) are likely to meet Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and top government officials on Wednesday to discuss ways to resolve the cash crunch faced by the aerospace firm.
According to HAL Employees Union General Secretary Surya Devra Chandrashekhar, the firm had to take a loan of Rs 1,000 crore to pay salaries to its 30,000 employees despite giving away Rs 9,000 crore — including Rs 5,000 crore in dividends — to the defence ministry over the last four years. The HAL Staff Union has also expressed disappointment over the defence ministry's decision to overlook the firm for the Rafale aircraft deal, and its alleged reluctance to clear Rs 15,700 crore in dues. All this has led to the present financial crisis, it says.
HAL Chairman R Madhavan and other board members left Bengaluru on Tuesday for the meeting, likely to be attended by many important officials from the army, navy and defence ministry.
"We request the defence minister to release the work order because nearly a lakh of our families have been suffering. Although we have taken a loan to pay the salaries, we are not in a position to give allowances," HAL Employees Union President R Srinivasan told NDTV.
HAL employees believe that the firm can make Rs 50,000 crore if the defence ministry clears a project for manufacturing 83 light combat aircraft, and the Air Force pays dues amounting to Rs 16,000 crore. "We are capable of delivering orders worth Rs 2 lakh crore over the next 10 years," said Mr Chandrashekhar.
Key functionaries in the union questioned the reasoning behind taking the Rafale contract away from HAL when it has successfully produced Jaguar and Hawks in the past. "We met every expectation of the defence ministry and the Air Force chief, but the defence ministry suddenly raised doubts about our capabilities," said Mr Srinivasan.
The Congress alleges that the Narendra Modi government has shown favouritism by taking HAL out of the multi-crore Rafale aircraft deal in favour of Anil Ambani's Reliance Industries.
Disclaimer: NDTV has been sued for 10,000 crores by Anil Ambani's Reliance Group for its coverage of the Rafale deal