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Manoj Tandon

Rafale – A soldier’s perspective

Manoj Tandon



Rafale deal

04:00 hours – Somewhere on India-China Border……Wing Commander W gets a message to scramble; Chinese multi-role attack aircraft were spotted intruding into Indian air-space….

 He immediately takes off with his wingman in his old warhorse Mig 21 knowing fully well that his aircraft with old technology was no match for the latest state of the art Chinese attack planes but then duty is duty and Indian Air Force never waivers when duty calls….

 Soon they had the Chinese formation in their visual range….Wing Commander engages the Chinese plane, due to superior air mobility; soon the Chinese plane is at his 6’O clock. His wingman shouts….Sir, Bandit at 6’O clock….wing commander goes into a sharp G turn….but it’s too late and too little, with missile lock in place the Chinese fighter releases its missile, W goes into a sharp G turn to avoid the missile, his Mig 21 shudders but slowly starts to turn…..W realises in his desperation that this plane has been flying since 1970s (since  40 odd years) and he is up against a plane with the latest technology. But then he is a typical Indian Armed Forces brave soldier… can he accept defeat….

 He watches in horror, as the missile comes at his plane with a loud whine….it’s like death approaching…..a loud bang……fragments exploding all around…..and then…..complete silence…..

 48 hours later….a beautiful ceremony, in full Armed Forces tradition, is going on…..W’s body is being cremated with full military honours…

Don’t worry I am not doing storytelling, I am just telling you the future….

While our politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, friends, social media friends (yes, this is a new category in this digital age), family members….are all busy jabbering at/with each other NO ONE and I repeat NO ONE is bothered about the implications of this waste of time.

And why should we, we are sitting in our cosy heated or AC’d drawing rooms, a nice cup of tea in our hands, enjoying the kebabs… does it matter if a highly trained, dedicated, committed fighter pilot of Indian Air Force loses his life, his wife becomes a widow, his kids orphans…..

Let me help you smell the salt:

The Current Situation

The Indian Air Force has an effective strength of 31 combat squadrons, although it has 34 combat squadrons in total. These include

  • 11 squadrons of the Su-30MKI
  • 3 each of the MiG-29 and Mirage 2000 (currently undergoing an upgrade)
  • 6 of the Jaguar (at the initial stage of an upgrade process) and
  • 6 of the MiG-21Bison.
  • In addition, two upgraded MiG-27 squadrons serve with the Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment (TACDE).
  • It is believed that 3 squadrons continue to operate older MiG-21s and non-upgraded MiG-27s they are in the process of being phased out.

The Challenge

The IAF desires strength of some 42 combat squadrons by the period 2027-32 in order to meet the contingencies of a two-front war.

Assuming a current practical strength of 31 squadrons, there is an immediate requirement for 11 more to meet its desired force levels by 2027. However, 6 more squadrons of MiG-21Bison and the 2 MiG-27 will be phased out by 2025.

This leaves a short fall of anything between 13 to 17 squadrons out of the total desired number of 42 squadrons….

i.e. IAF will be operating at 30 % less fighting capability then it requires to be an effective fighting force…….and this will happen in less than a decade

Hope I have shaken you up a bit, hope some of you have now realised that we are carrying a time bomb, hope some of you have realised that there is a need for vigorous action rather than debates….

Else, our brave soldiers, our brave military personnel will keep giving their lives, more families will lose their sons, husbands, fathers…..while we while away our time in meaningless discussions…..

Wing Commander W’s wife, grief stricken, is sitting in the lobby of her house, …hoping to somehow trying to normalise life in her home….she switches on the TV…..a debate is going on… Lok Sabha

 My deal was better than yours, No No mine is better… are corrupt, no no your party is corrupt….

 She changes the channel, a TV anchor is shouting, the panellists are trying to talk over each other… you don’t understand….Rafale is this, Rafale is that…..

 She wants to scream…..NONE of you even know what a plane is, what Air Force is, what a fighter plane is, you all know NOTHING but discuss as if you THE expert……

 And worst still you don’t know how it feels to be sitting in a cockpit with a missile tearing down towards your plane, you know you are going to die because of people, we voted for,  were too busy in scoring points with each other……

 She screams, picks up a paper weight lying on the side table and throws it towards the TV screen….the missile hits the target…….again…..

Manoj is the Founder and Managing Partner of TMTC, a Growth Consulting Company and an alumnus of IIT Kanpur and IIM Lucknow

Manoj Tandon

Fugitive Economic Offender – Be Careful

Manoj Tandon



Vijay Mallya

Recently, Vijay Mallya has been declared as a Fugitive Economic Offender. It has been a big news item everywhere. Whereas intuitively it does sound like a step in the right direction but then as someone said, the devil lies in the details. To understand the devil, let’s go into some of the details.

What does the Ordinance/Act say (at a very broad level):

  • fugitive economic offender is an individual who has committed some specified offence(s) involving an amount of 100 crore rupees or more and has absconded from India or refused to come back to India to avoid or face criminal prosecution in India.
  • According to this act, the property of a fugitive economic offender, resulting from the proceeds of crime, can be confiscated once he is declared so by the Court.
  • However, if, at any point of time in the course of the proceeding prior to the declaration, the alleged Fugitive Economic Offender returns to India and submits to the appropriate jurisdictional Court, proceedings under the Act would cease by law.

Now, there are some issues with this bill which are also important to understand:

Issue 1: As it stands today, the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill simply is a right given to the Government banks to jump the Queue. In this queue, there also are:

  • employees whose salaries have not been paid
  • non-banking creditors who gave money as unsecured loans
  • businesses, who sold goods but have not been paid

All will be fighting to break open his lock and take possession of his property.  But then, a bank will come with the Fugitive Economic Offenders act and tell all to stay away from the property as it is their first right to lay hands on possession, seal and dispose the property in open market and realise the amount they borrowed.

Issue 2: What if the person is proved to be innocent? Or guilty of less money due than his properties were sold for? Who is responsible for returning his money?

Issue 3: The problem does not end here, the bill also allows the government to confiscate and do property search without a search warrant or ensure the presence of a neutral witness before a search. This opens up the possibility of planting of evidence.

Issue 4: It goes against the principle of natural justice of our constitution. One cannot take someone’s property without proving his offence first. And if one does prove the person guilty then there are other laws which give the same powers so then why another law.

Issue 5: The Bill – takes away a person’s right to make or defend a civil claim in court. This means that they can’t file cases, say, for breaches of contract against them. To make it worse, they can’t even defend themselves if someone else files a civil case against them, which would mean they would automatically lose those cases.

On top of this, the Bill also says that if any representative, promoter, key managerial personnel, majority shareholder or owner of a controlling interest in a company or LLP is declared a fugitive economic offender, then the company or LLP can’t file or defend cases either, this begs the question what happens to the interests of the shareholders who are minority shareholders of the company?

The above brings me to another question:

Do we really need another law; let’s look at some of the laws we already have:

  • the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act
  • Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act
  • Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code
  • Prevention of Money Laundering Act etc.

Law is and was never the problem. Implementation is the real issue and that cannot be tackled by another law.

Now, let’s go a bit deeper into this specific situation.

While Vijay Mallya has been declared to be FEO but as we very well know there are more than 30 businessmen who fit the criterion of FEO and who are under investigation be CBI and Enforcement Directorate and who have absconded to avoid facing prosecution. Nirav Modi, Choksi, Lalit Modi….and so on

Why are we waiting to file a similar claim as they have done for Vijay Mallya? Are there any doubts that this bill is good enough or not? Is this a test case?

Let me explain why this doubt.

Attachment of property is absolutely meaningless unless the property can be sold. A Property worth Rs. 300 Crores can sell for around Rs 180–200 Crores in a poor market but if the Property is attached and auctioned – it will fetch barely 50–60 Crores. So the assets will be sold for barely 20–25% of their actual values. Even this procedure will take 10 years as the Bill has absolutely no clear provisions of selling the attached assets.

So, what is the real issue which needs to be tackled?

The real issue is the collusion of the Bank and the culprit, THAT remains as it is. Nothing changes as far as that is concerned.

Now, someone will say – well, this bill will act as a deterrent for the future. Will it, let’s think what will happen going forward.

In the future, here is what may happen because of the clause of confiscation of asset, the person with ithe ntention to commit a crime will choose different option to store the looted resources like liquid cash or bullion in offshore banks.

Simple isn’t it….


In the meantime, middle class people will continue to bear the burden of the scams. Pay higher taxes, higher interests to cover for the NPA…..

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