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Millennium Post

Find out who’re coal mafia, now!

Looks like the coal fire is about to singe a number of high profile political and corporate entities, including ‘competent authorities’ who sanction dubious deals and disallow transparent and competitive auctions as per the norms. As per a 2005 letter by the then coal secretary PC Parakh, ‘the coal mafia is not outside the government. It exists within the ministry of coal.’ Even if this assertion amounts to exaggeration, the 14-page note from the former bureaucrat is a strong indication of the rampant malpractices and collusion amongst politicians, government officials and business heads in this country, with coal, and other mining industries, now infested with a pervasive rot. Even as the CBI behaves like a raging bull over the alleged indiscretions in the coal block allotments to Kumar Mangalam Birla-owned Hindalco and tries to frame the whistleblower-in-chief Parakh himself for cheating, it has left the smouldering issues pertaining to other corporate groups, particularly Jindal and Reliance, still hanging in the limbo of bureaucratic inertia, only vaguely registering preliminary enquiries against some of the business houses. Although charges against Naveen Jindal and the then MoS Coal Dasari Nandan Rao have been framed, the Bureau has been extremely lax in its proceedings as far as the probes and questionings are concerned. Evidently, prime minister Manmohan Singh’s latest national proclamation in self-defence (which, in his case, often turn into self-goals), asserting that he has ‘nothing to hide’ and that he’s ‘ready for a CBI probe’, has only come after the PMO was cornered and pushed to a wall over claims and counterclaims by the Bureau and the former coal secretary. This squarely indicates that indeed the PMO, and the PM, who held the coal portfolio at the time of these mishandlings, were somewhere complicit in and ultimately responsible for the gigantic Rs 1.86 lakh crore coal scam that has since shaken the nation’s collective conscience and driven home the rampant institutional corruption eating away the state apparatus at every level of operation.   

If Parakh’s letter is anything to go by, the nefarious nexus between the nation’s legislators and top corporate bosses is not a new phenomenon, but is, in fact, an entrenched feature of the Indian political-economic theatre. As Parakh’s memo underscores, members of Parliament and legislative assemblies often indulge in blackmailing the civil servants and senior executives of public and private sector units for private profiteering, and the vice-versa, the business figures holding the political bosses to ransom, is equally true. This unholy mix of power and corruption exists in every sphere of operation, with barely a mechanism in place to check the relent onslaught of corrupting influences. In the light of the CAG report, which came in 2012 and brought the humungous coal scam to national spotlight, the Parakh letter is not only discerning but also prophetic, as it were. But given the CBI is hell bent on dousing the coal fire with the blood of the whistleblower himself, how far can the Bureau succeed in exposing the actual ‘coal mafia’ (whether within the ministry or the wider corporate sector) whose ‘large-scale black marketing and generation of black money’ through unscrupulous mining practices are destroying the economy from within.    

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