Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

This is a sequel to my previous article with the same heading.

Whatever the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) said, amended or withdrawn in his draft report and is going to say in his final report is immaterial now. There is now a prima facie case for investigation of the procedures adopted in the allocation of coal mining rights. Now the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister, the Coal Minister, the Government, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and all other agencies for ensuring propriety in the public sector should play a role in bringing about a full and thorough investigation and explain to the people.

Chauthi Duniya (CD), a television company, conducted its own investigations and published a report entitled ‘Mega scam in coal worth 26 lakh crores’. It seems that this was published somewhere in April 2011. The alarm bell was sounded.

The draft report of CAG puts loss of revenue at Rs10.77lakh crore (~$211bn)  whereas  CD estimated it at Rs.26 lakhs crores – more than two and a half times of estimated loss as stated by CAG. Regardless of how each of them computed the amount, it is important to note that both of them have come up with a staggering number which richly deserves careful scrutiny.

From 1993 to 2010 208 blocks of coal (amounting to 49.07 billion tons) were allocated for free. Out of the 208 blocks 113 blocks (amounting to 21.69 billion tons) were given to 184 private companies for free. Was any tender called? How much were the bids? Rs 0.00? If all the bids were for Rs 0.00 why was no international tender called? If the bids were higher than Rs 0.00 then why was the coal land given free.

The pretext of this was that the private players, in search of profit, could be lured into investing in such blocks which for the government would prove both difficult and cost ineffective to mine. This needs to be looked into. Was the objective achieved? What economic benefit did accrue to the government?

There was a report in Outlook India. I quote:
“There is no way by which NTPC can make windfall profit out of the coal produced from these mines as under the CERC regulated regime the cost of coal from these mines will be pass-through in the power tariff…,” NTPC Chairman and Managing Director Arup Roy Choudhury said.
NTPC is a state-  owned energy service provider and CERC is Central Electricity Regulatory Commission.

This is another stupid argument. It is not for the NTPC or CERC to distribute the government resources to the people. Their role is to charge for the power based on market value of the fuel and pass the revenue to the government. The industries and businesses and other consumers should pay for power at market costs. This is what is done in other countries. Only then will the Indian businesses come out of the shelter, sweat a bit and then become internationally competitive. By providing power at below market price, NTPC and CERC are robbing the poor to give the rich. Major consumers of power are business and industries. They are the rich.
It is the role of the government to decide how to distribute its revenue in the form of medical care to the elderly, education, food and clothing to poor children, building hospitals and developing the rural areas to mention a few.

Jaiswal, India’s coal minister said the prime minister had agreed in 2004 in principle to have competitive bidding for the sale of coalfields but the process was taking time due to the complexities involved. This was reported in an article entitled
Indian minister denies coal ‘scam’

From 2004 to now is eight long years. How long will the minister take to deal with these complexities? In another 30 years? Or when all the coal reserves are exhausted in India?

Now we come to the interesting part of the story. Chauthi Duniya (CD) said that it had laid its hands on evidence to support its claim. But Chauthi Duniya (CD) also says that the Honourable Minister for coal does not have to go sleuthing to get the evidence of corruption. The evidence is there right under his nose in the files of the government.

If what CD says is true, then why doesn’t the Minister read the files and tell the truth to the people and the parliament. Why does he want a report from CAG?

Please Minister, CAG gets the papers from you and then writes his report in his own words. The facts are from you. He cannot invent any facts. How can CAG know more about your ministry than you?

Jaiswal is the incumbent and he is answerable on the affairs of the ministry. He cannot claim that he did not do it nor did not know about it. All the files CD speaks of are in his custody. If there were any impropriety in his ministry he should have pointed it out to the parliament and public within a reasonable time of taking office. By failing to do so he has become an accomplice and an accessory after the fact.

CD does go on to say that these documents reveal that even the CAG had knowledge of this scam. CD questions why the CAG was silent for so long?
An interesting question too!

This is a quote from CD’s report: “This scam is registered in government files themselves and the figures therein are shouting from the rooftops that the swindlers have had the biggest day yet.”

This is a good read and I beg you to read it.