Coal scam theory was sham... entire block allocation process was transparent
New Delhi: Once tipped as the largest ever scam, the events that have unfolded in the country's coal situation over the last 4 years have come to a point of proving that the entire coal scam theory was a sham. Last week, when a Special CBI Court acquitted the accused officials of a steel company for lack of evidence, it came as a surprise for many quarters. Almost every company that has been embroiled in the captive coal block allocation case has time and again cried that the entire process of allocation was transparent and administered by a high-level multi-department screening committee comprising of representation from various ministries of both central and state governments.
Apart from the recent case of Bajrang Ispat, and a 3-year-old acquittal order on JIPL, as many as 6 companies and its directors have been convicted. Most feel that the perception of irregularities and scam created an environment where they have been deprived of justice both at the investigation as well as judicial stages. What one needs to look into more seriously is the conviction of upright retired IAS officer like Harish Chandra Gupta, who has found tremendous support from some of the topmost serving IAS officials. As the then Coal Secretary, HC Gupta was the Chairman of the Screening Committee which made Captive Coal Block Allocations from 2006-2008. A screening committee where every case was looked into on its merits. And almost every such allocation under various stages of investigations or trial.
Infact even at the time of deallocating the captive coal blocks, the Supreme Court was clear that the administrative machinery needs to ensure that the output of every operational coal block doesn't get compromised. The administrative ministry failed miserably in ensuring that. The last 4 rounds of captive coal block auctions have been called off for various reasons as core infrastructure plants from steel and power sector remain hungry for optimum quantity of coal for financial and operational sustainability. A large number of such victims have already succumbing to the NPA mess. The recent acquittal and as the coal demand-supply scenario has emerged clearly shows that the coal shortage would have been much lower if all captive coal blocks had been allowed to continue by the Supreme Court. Going by Industry voices, many plants whose captive coal blocks were deallocated would not have gone through the NPA route, and have given the government healthy employment figures to talk about. Last year, none other than the Attorney General of India KK Venugopal had stated in open court that the Supreme Court was responsible for "hitting" Mining, Telecom and Coal Sectors. Even the current SBI Chairman had concurred in that Government and Judiciary were responsible for the NPA pile-up. Unfortunately, lakhs of crores of bank funds have become NPA's and a few lakhs having lost their source of livelihood becoming collateral damage to a hypothetical and notional loss theory that got published in a CAG Report.
Perhaps it's high time that CAG audits the real loss to the nation due to the mythical