Recent revelations about the existence of a log showing the individuals who visited Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Ranjit Sinha’s residence before the Supreme Court hearing in the 2G scam case were sensational. The log evidently showed that many persons against whom investigations were being conducted were frequent visitors to the CBI director’s house.This latest visitor’s book scandal is also a reminder that important issues and questions still remain in the Coalgate scam as well. In fact, former Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai, whose tell-all book ‘Not just an Accountant’ was all set recently to hit the stands soon, said that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could have easily prevented high-profile scandals like 2G spectrum allocation scam, coal blocks allocation scam and the Commonwealth Games scam had he shown his stamp of authority.
The Supreme Court of India has declared illegal all coal block allocations made in the last 17 years during the tenure of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government, theUnited Progressive Alliance (UPA) and other Governments. The Supreme Court held all 218 coal blocks allocated from 1993-2010 as unlawful. The Court also raised serious questions on the allocation process. Even at the stage when the decision on whether to cancel these allocations or not was yet to come, it was obvious that answers to some more questions as well were still required. For example, as the main Opposition, did the BJP play its role correctly in this scam? After the Court verdict, will people responsible for this scam get punished? What will be the stand of the Court with regard to Manmohan Singh who was the Coal Minister as well as the Prime Minister? And, one of the biggest questions that Chauthi Duniya has been raising for the past 4 years and which it is still raising: is this coal scam merely of 1 lakh 86 thousand crore rupees or of 26 lakh crore rupees?
In its very first report Chauthi Duniya had said this that this is not just a scam. It is the biggest scam in the history of Indian democracy in which the country has suffered a loss of 26 lakh crore rupees. After reading this sentence there is no need to be surprised or to disbelieve. Why? Because Chauthi Duniya’s claim is not based on any airy assessment, nor on any make believe number, but is based on documents presented by the Standing Committee of Parliament on coal. These documents reveal that due to allocation of coal blocks in an illegal manner, the Government has suffered a revenue loss of 26 lakh crore rupees and this was the information given to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) as well. The interesting thing is that a BJP Member of Parliament, Hansraj Ganga Ram Ahir was also a member of the Standing Committee of Parliament on coal, and he had given information to the CAG too. Besides, an initial report of the CAG was also leaked, after which the media put the cost of this coal scam at over10 lakh crore rupees. However, the CAG had said later that this news was baseless. Be that as it may, let us look at the various aspects of the mega coal scam which Chauthi Duiniya had brought to light through its various reports over the past 4 years.
Firstly, it is essential to know what were the main issues raised by the Supreme Court in its judgment. The Court said that in the coal block allocations, an unbiased and transparent process was not adopted. In the meantime, even after the judgment of the Court in this matter, the ongoing investigation of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) the Enforcement Directorate (ED) will continue. Actually, this judgement of the Court has come as a result of an appeal by advocate M.L. Sharma, NGO Common Cause, and Sudeep Shrivastava, in which, citing violation of rules in allocation of coal blocks a demand was made to cancel them. While delivering judgment on this appeal, the Court held the allocations to be illegal. According to the Court, allocations done after 14 July, 1993 and 36 meetings of the screening committee and as per the discretionary powers of the Government were done in an arbitrary and illegal manner. The screening committee never allocated in a uniform and transparent manner. According to the Court, in the allocations, a casual attitude was adopted and because of this wrong distribution of a national asset took place.
When Chauthi Duniya first published the report that under the UPA-2 Government, a coal scam of 26 lakh crore rupees had taken place, maybe it was difficult for anybody to believe it. At that time neither had the CAG report come and nor did anyone think that such a big scam could happen. At that time, Chauthi Duniya also asked Nitin Gadkari, Shyam Jaju of the BJP( the Opposition party) and the Left parties to raise this issue, but nobody paid attention. Of course, BJP Member of Parliament (MP) Hansraj Ganga Ram Ahir, who was a member of the Standing Committee on coal, certainvly tried from his side that the Opposition with all its power should attack the Government over this scam, but he too got isolated in his own party.
In an interview on ‘Times Now’, former Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai said had former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh been firm, the Government may not have been mired in as much controversy. Rai said that he was approached by three Congress MPs – former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar who had to resign for allegedly pressuring the CBI to dilute the PMO’s role in the Coalgate scam, Sanjay Nirupam and Sandeep Dikshit — to drop the name of the PM from the CAG report on 2G spectrum allocation.
On such a big issue, the BJP at that time silently watched the drama. In a democracy, when the Opposition stays quiet on such a big issue, then its meaning can be easily understood. An active Opposition is one which doesn’t let any issue go out of its hands and for that it doesn’t have to wait for some CAG report. The humorous thing is that BJP MP Hansraj Ganga Ram Ahir himself was equipped and armed with all papers and proofs. If the BJP had wanted, it could have targeted the UPA since 2011 itself, but it didn’t do so. Why it didn’t do so, and instead of believing the documents of the Standing Committee of Parliament why it waited for 2 years for the report of the CAG to come out, only the BJP can give answers to these questions.
The mega coal scam is unique and unprecedented in itself, because it was in this scam that a lot of things happened for the first time which had obviously never happened before. For example, the Supreme Court didn’t believe the words of even the Prime Minister and asked for an affidavit. The Law Minister (Ashwini Kumar) lied and said that he didn’t see the CBI report and didn’t ask for changes to be made in it, whereas the CBI accepted that before presenting the report in Supreme Court, the Law Minister and the PMO saw it and also made changes in it. Charges of changing the CBI report were levied against Kumar and in the end because of this he lost his position as a Minister. The Supreme Court called the CBI a caged parrot and said it is important to free the parrot. The Supreme Court, raising questions on the work of the late Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati expressed deep annoyance and got the entire CBI investigation conducted under its watch.
In this entire matter one of the biggest questions that comes up now after the judgment of the Supreme Court is: will former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh take responsibility for the illegal allocations? It is said that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is an honest person. Earlier, the people of the country accepted this as a fact, but after scams like 2G and the coal block allocations, people of the country started questioning the meaning of that honesty because of which scams of lakhs of crores of rupees happened. In the mega coal scam, the most important fact is the name of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also involved. There was the allegation against the former Prime Minister that when the command of the Coal Ministry was in his hands, it was then that the coal blocks were allocated. The question is: as the Coal Minister, wasn’t it his responsibility that the coal blocks were allocated in an illegal manner? When the Supreme Court itself has held the coal block allocations to be illegal, then the question is: will former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh be held responsible for it?
Actually, between 2006 and 2009, former Coal Minister Shibu Soren was in jail. During that time, the responsibility of this Ministry was with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Those days a screening committee constituted by the PMO was looking after the work of coal block allocations. Former Coal Secretary H.C. Gupta was monitoring that committee. The screening committee, overlooking the rules, was allocating coal mines. Mr. Gupta was repeatedly telling the PMO by writing letters that the auction system should be adapted for allocation, but the PMO didn’t listen to him. The question is: what was the reason that the suggestion of the Coal Secretary to conduct auctions for coal block allocations were ignored by the Prime Minister’s office? It is evident that investigation should also be done on which person or officer sitting in the PMO rejected the suggestion of the Coal Secretary and upon whose orders? Will the former Prime Minister tell the country according to which rule his Government carried out coal block allocations through a first come first serve policy instead of the recommended auctions?
Lies And More Lies
The late former Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati had said in the Supreme Court that the status report of the CBI had not been shared with any Minister. But when the CBI director in his affidavit accepted that before being presented in the Supreme Court the report had already been shared with Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and the PMO, then the Supreme Court made harsh statements with regard to the Government and CBI. Vahanvati had said that he had not even seen the draft report. However this was a white lie. The Law Minister himself later said that in the meeting with the CBI director Vahanvati was also present. The Additional Solicitor General had also given this statement that Vahanvati had already seen the report before. Actually, the Additional Solicitor General had previously said in the Court that the status report of the CBI had not been shared with any Minister, but the CBI director accepted in the affidavit that upon asking the report was shown to Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, Joint Secretary of the PMO and the Coal Ministry. After this the Government had removed Additional Solicitor General Rawal. Then the Additional Solicitor General wrote a letter to Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati alleging that he was misled by him. Rawal said that during the meeting of the Law Minister with the CBI Director, the Attorney General was present and he also had made changes in the report and the Government is making me the sacrificial goat.
A Brief List Of ‘Firsts’
- The Supreme Court didn’t believe even the words of a Prime Minister and asked for an affidavit to be given.
- Former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar lied. Allegation of changing the CBI report was levelled against him and in the end he lost his position as a Minister.
- The CBI accepted that before presenting the report in the Supreme Court the Law Minister and PMO saw it and also made changes in it.
- The Supreme Court called the CBI a caged parrot and said it is important to free the parrot.
- The Supreme Court raising questions on the working of then Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati expressed intense annoyance.
- The Supreme Court then got the full CBI investigation conducted under its watch.
A Scam Of 26 Lakh Crore Rupees, Not 1.86 Thousand Crore Rupees
The work of awarding captive coal blocks to the private sector was started from 1993. It was said that this was done because some coal mines would have proved to be difficult for the Government to mine from a financial viewpoint. That is why it was decided to give them to the private sector. It was said that in a greed for profits, private undertakings would develop these far off and difficult mines and there will be ab increase in coal production of the country. From 1993 till 2010, 208 coal blocks were allocated, which meant 49.07 billion tons of coal. Out of these, 113 coal blocks in the private sector were given to 184 private companies, which meant 21.69 billion tons coal. If it is assessed at the market rate, then at the rate of 2500 rupees/ton the cost of this coal turns out to be 5,382,830.50 crore rupees. If out of this 1250 rupees/ton is cut, by assuming that 850 rupees is the production cost and 400 rupees is the profit, then too the country has borne a loss of 26 lakh crore rupees revenue. This assessment is not ours, but that which the Standing Committee on coal had itself estimated. This coal scam received the ‘honour’ of being the biggest scam in history and perhaps the biggest known scam in the world. During investigation, Chauthi Duniya had found some documents which revealed some shocking facts. From these documents it was found that the CAG had information of this scam beforehand.
Alleged Manipulation By Former Jharkhand CM And Former Prime Minister
In August 2012, exactly 1 year after the presentation of his coal block allocations report in Parliament, the CAG had presented one more report, in which irregularities in the coal block allocation by the Jharkhand Government were focused upon. Even after the report had been presented in Parliament one key aspect of it had remained hidden. In the above report, allegations were levelled against both the former Chief Minister of Jharkhand Madhu Koda and the Central Government for manipulation in allocation of 6 coal blocks. According to the report, the suggestions of the screening committee set up for coal block allocation had been completely ignored.
In 2007 the Coal Ministry was with the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The CAG’s report made it clear that the Prime Minister not only okayed the decision of allocating coal blocks to companies recommended by Koda, but in the final list also included some names himself. All these were those companies, the names of which were not suggested by the screening committee. In this whole process the screening committee, whose work it was to verify the qualification of companies, was very important. Out of 210 applications, the screening committee had accepted only 10, but in the final coal blocks allocation, no relevance remained of this screening committee.
Report number 1 of the CAG on the Jharkhand revenue sector says that when the recommendations of the screening committee were sent in June 2007 for approval to the Chief Minister, then he tampered with the names in it and recommended them to the Centre. No reason was given for why this was so done. The CAG asked for an answer from the Jharkhand Government in this regard in September 2012, but no answer was given. Tata steel, JAS Infrastructure, Essar Power Limited, Arcelor-Mittal India, D.V.K Powers and Gagan Sponge Iron Private Limited were also allocated coal blocks, whereas their names were not there in the initial reccomendations. This report of the CAG was presented in Parliament in July 2013. At that time there was President’s Rule in Jharkhand.