Corruption had seeped into the Indian system long before it became a norm. A young India was trying to find a foothold after British rulers had left her at the hands of Indian leaders.
As the new-born nation was trying to come in terms with a modern way of life, some native thugs were already getting ready to loot her people. One among them was Krishna Menon, who bungled up a defense deal to pocket huge sums of money. Krishna Menon, who was under the wings of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, struck a deal while he was working as the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.
India was new to these matters, and Menon used the gullibility of the nation in filling up his coffers with a shady Jeep deal in 1948, in what can be considered India’s first scam. Menon signed a Rs 80 lakh-deal with a UK-based firm and made a payment for 1,500 jeeps. However, only 155 were delivered, and importantly, the vehicles turned out to be ridden with problems. The sub-standard jeeps were rejected outright by the Indian Army.
As the media picked up the story, public furore arose for the audacious corrupt dealings of a public official. Due to intense political and media pressure Krishna Menon resigned from office. Few years later, home minister Govind Ballabh Pant announced that the case was closed, ignoring the inquiry committee’s request to do otherwise.
Menon, who was one of Nehru’s pet official, was inducted into his cabinet as a minister without portfolio, to be promoted as defence minister in 1956. And no sooner this happened, the jeep case just disappeared.
However, that was just the beginning; in the following years, many defense scandals rocked the nation. But one man takes the cake for being linked to so many corrupt deals that would put Krishna Menon to shame. Right from faulty planes to expensive Barak missiles, from coffins to sting operations, ex-defense minister George Fernandes has faced it all.
Apparently, in 2000, Fernandes ignored the suggestions of then defense adviser APJ Abdul Kalam, and finalised the deal with Israel at a blown-up price. A year prior to this, the minister and some army officials were accused of being involved in the coffin scam, when war coffins were purchased to sent the bodies of Kargil martyrs to their families.
It’s a sad state of affairs that the military personnel, who make the supreme sacrifice for the nation, end up getting raw deals at the hand of corrupt superiors and defense ministers. It’s an irony that even their last ride, the coffin, is compromised so that someone else’s coffers fill up, while their families mourn an irreversible grief.