New Delhi: Bofors brought the ban on arms dealers. But in 2001, on the recommendation of the then chief vigilance commissioner N Vithal, the NDA government lifted the ban.
The idea, perhaps, was to bring the shadowy arms bazaar out into the sunlight. The only condition was that middlemen register themselves with the Ministry of Defence. It was a measure aimed at transparency.
The intention may have been noble, but not even one of the arms dealers came out into the open.
Says Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, "Earlier the Government tried to get the agents to register themselves. However, nobody accepted the offer and so it was a non-starter."
So, arms dealers haven't changed their style. And in the arms biz, the more the things change, the more they stay they same.
No matter which regime is in place, there have been hints of scandal after scandal.
With no takers for voluntary transparency in the arms bazaar, Pranab Mukherjee has gone in for a policy reversal. The ban is back.
"Nobody came forward for registration and so the idea stayed neither here nor there. Now it is not possible because we have put a blanket ban on it by having an integrity pact," says he.
So far, it seems the ban has failed to deter arms dealers.
From Bofors to Barak, has the system failed to lick the middleman? Time and again, it has been clear that the system is not a victim of middlemen. Rather, it looks more and more like an accomplice.