Coal block allocation scam
How many more?
The heat of coal block allocation scam is close to Prime Minister Office. After grilling former Minister of State for Coal, Dasari Narayan Rao, Congress MP Naveen Jindal and some unknown officials of the Screening Committee for alleged criminal conspiracy, cheating, graft and criminal misconduct in its 12th FIR, the CBI is said to be all set to quiz some former top officials of the Prime Minister’s office. Since the day the Supreme Court has started monitoring investigation in this case, the UPA government is finding it difficult to shield the culprits and conspirators.
It is but natural that if the CBI has sufficient evidences against the Minister of State for Coal, how can the head of the Ministry i.e. the Prime Minister himself who held the coal ministry in those days, remain clean. This is the question which is nagging not only the minds of the investigative agency officials but also the common man. The CBI’s timing is coming as bad news for the government because it has brought the scandal back to the headlines, and has provided new ammunition to the Opposition.
The CBI officials are of the clear opinion that some officials in the PMO are deeply involved in the scam, but they could not touch them because some Congress leaders and also the PMO are shielding them. Now if the CBI could name the then Minister of State for Coal Rao as an accused in the FIR, it is after the eight-month-long probe into the scam. The CBI alleged that Rao received 2.25 crore camouflaged as investment from one of Jindal’s firms within an year of allocating him a coal block. It is also the first time that ‘unknown’ officials of the Screening Committee have also been named in the FIR.
After registering the FIR, the CBI carried out searches at 19 locations including residence and offices of Jindal in the national Capital and Rao in Hyderabad. But even after the FIR nobody has so far been arrested. It is in complete contradiction of the action taken against YSR Congress chief, YS Jaganmohan Reddy, who had been arrested by the agency after being questioned for nearly 21 hours over three days in a disproportionate assets case. Almost similar to the ones against Jindal in the coal block allocation scam case. However, despite registering an FIR against him, the agency has not initiated any action.
Another major success that the CBI got in this case is getting permission to quiz former Coal Secretary HC Gupta. The CBI was saying for some time that despite numerous requests, it was not being allowed to question the bureaucrats. Now when it threatened to inform the Supreme Court the government reportedly granted permission. Gupta was the coal secretary and the head of a screening committee from 2006-2009. The panel allocated mining rights to companies and during the said period around 68 coal blocks were allocated. The CBI had then filed 12 FIRs on charges including providing wrongful information to the screening panel. The CBI sought to probe the role of Gupta in the case. However, it was denied permission by the government each time.
The CBI is also planning to quiz some top PMO officials in the case. Those who are to be quizzed include TKA Nair, principal secretary to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2009 when he also handled the coal portfolio. Also in the CBI’s sight is the then joint secretary Javed Usmani. The agency is also expected to seek some information from former director in the PMO Vini Mahajan. The CBI list also includes former coal secretary C Balakrishnan as well. Sources say that the questioning of these officials would be pivotal for the ongoing probe, but this may only widen the faultlines between the government and the premier investigating agency as it is unlikely that the Prime Minister will allow the questioning of his close confidante and key aide Nair who still wields considerable influence in the PMO. Nair is no longer principal secretary to the Prime Minister, but continues to serve as adviser.
The coal scam has been a major embarrassment for the Congress-led UPA government. After the CAG report in 2012, that said the allocations were done in an arbitrary manner and cost the nation thousands of crores, the Congress has been trying its best to protect its accused ministers. The Supreme Court also hauled up the government over the allegations of vetting the CBI report. The apex court even pulled up the CBI for being a “caged parrot” that spoke “in its master’s voice”. It set a deadline for the government to outline measures to ensure autonomous functioning of the investigation agency. The government has since formed a Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram, to look into the suggestions made by the Supreme Court on the independence of the CBI.
in a resolution adopted at the party’s national executive meeting held in Goa recently the BJP described the Congress-led UPA as the most corrupt government since Independence and each passing day only reinforces that impression. Bribery, kickbacks, gross financial impropriety and endless scams have become so common that it is difficult to keep a count. There is no guarantee that another major scam might not explode soon.
“The arrogance of power has made Congress indifferent to popular outrage. It used each day in office to loot the nation’s resources, whether in farmers’ land, spectrum, or mines, even as individual ministers, encouraged by laissez faire freedom in corruption accumulated private bounties wherever and whenever they could. Just a few weeks ago, two Cabinet ministers were forced to resign like a fish, Congress has begun to rot from head down. The family of the Congress president was involved in dubious deals on farming land. And the Italian police have mentioned the involvement of a “family” within the ruling hierarchy which has been allegedly paid off to obtain the Agusta helicopter deal,” the resolution said.
Twelve FIRs so far
First Five FIRs
First five FIRs were filed on September 4, 2012 against 5 companies including AMR Iron & Steel Private Ltd (Nagpur). JLD Yavatmal Energy Ltd (Nagpur), Navbharat Power Private Limited (Hyderabad), Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd (Kolkata) and JAS Infrastructure Capital Private Ltd (Kolkata). The FIRs against AMR Iron and Steel, JLD Yavatmal Energy Ltd and JAS Infrastructure explicitly names Congress MP Vijay Darda, his son Devendra Darda, brother Rajendra Darda (Education Minister of Maharastra) and Jaiswals who are believed to have links with Union Minister Shripraksah Jaiswal
6th and 7th FIR
The sixth and seventh FIRs were lodged on September 22, 2012 against Vikash Metal and Power Ltd (Kolkata) and Grace Industries Ltd (Nagpur) for misrepresentations of facts and false claims in the applications and in the presentations made by the companies
8th and 9th FIR
The eighth and ninth FIRs were filed on October 15, 2012 against Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Limited (Satna) for misrepresentation of the net worth of the company and against Green Infrastructure Private Limited (Delhi) for alleged inflation of company’s net worth
Lodged on March 15, 2013 against Jharkhand Ispat Private Limited for irregularities in allotment of coal blocks. The FIR along with the company also booked unknown public officials
It was lodged on April 27, 2013 against Pushp Steel and Mines Ltd. and its Directors Atul Jain and Sanjay Jain for misrepresentation of facts about net worth of the company and hiding facts about the experience in coal allocation
The 12th FIR was lodged on June 11 against Congress MP Naveen Jindal and former Minister of State for Coal Dasari Narayan Rao for fraud and corruption in the allocation of a coal block.