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Exposing the root of coal swindles

The parliamentary standing committee on coal and steel, headed by Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Bannerjee  has done the nation a signal service through its latest report on the coal allocation scam through which it has not only confirmed the Comptroller and Auditor General’s findings on the issue but has  found even deeper roots to it. It has found that the distribution of all coal blocks between 1993 and 2008 was made in an unauthorised manner.  Thus, the scam in the allocation of coal blocks spans a far wider period of time than thought till now as well as having been the responsibility of several governments. The CAG reports, which had brought to the public attention the inefficient and corrupt manner of the coal allocations, had limited their focus to the period between 2004-2009, during which the UPA government has been in power at the centre. As a result, the scandal which has been rocking the nation and disrupting Parliament, has focused on the role of the UPA government. It has focused on the ministers of this government and on companies that are linked to them and it. Yet, as the investigations of the standing committee reveal, the rot goes back further in time and all recent governments are culpable, with there being absolutely no transparency in the allocation of the coal blocks for close to 20 years.
 
Most surprisingly, throughout this period the allocations appear to have been made without any due process, with no advertisements being placed or public information being provided.  Despite there being some information available on the government websites between 2004 and 2008, there was still a lack of transparency as these was no bidding and the government did not get any revenue. Thus, there have been windfall gains to several allottees over several years with a consequent loss to the national exchequer. The CAG’s draft report entitled ‘Performance Audit Of Coal Block Allocations’ had noted that the government has extended ‘undue benefits’, totalling Rs 10.67 trillion to commercial entities by giving them coal acreages without auction between 2004 and 2009, with  the beneficiaries including some 100 private companies, as well as some public sector units. The standing committing has rightly suggested that all mines, where production is still to start, should be cancelled and all personnel involved in the allocations should be investigated. A high level probe must bring out the whole truth.
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