The story reported by this newspaper about how two US and Japan based companies are arm-twisting an Indian corporate giant, the mining PSU Coal India, has come as a shocker to many not in the loop about corrupt business practices involved in major deals that PSUs make, often amounting to multi-billion dollars. What is at stake here is not just the credibility and financial health of a giant PSU like Coal India but also the fact that public money and national resources are getting liquidated, thanks to the thuggery of foreign multinationals.
The concerned corporations are Caterpillar, the US-based mining equipment giant and Japanese company Komatsu, both with significant business interest in the Indian market. What the report makes clear and concise is how the two companies have over the years established virtual monopoly in supply of mining equipment to Coal India and now, instead of participating in a tender for dumpers for Maintenance and Repair Contract (MARC), they are trying to enter the fray through the backdoor, pressuring the coal company to adjust the terms and conditions of the contract as per the needs and profit of the two companies. They are also trying to sell dumpers without the guarantee of OTR tyres, thereby road-blocking seamless work of maintenance and contract at the mining end of the company. Coal India at the moment is holding forth but soon, unable to either dislodge them or parry their pressures, the company might give in. To the layman, these may mean small adjustments that the part of Coal India will have to make to accommodate the demands of the large corporations but stakes, in monetary terms, are indeed huge! Also, comparatively smaller adjustments are most likely to translate into bigger compromises that Coal India has to make in the future. Either way the current demands cannot and should not be met.
Also, the incidents have brought into light the shadowy figure of one Sanjay Pansari, a wheeler dealer and so called lobbyist in the coal sector who seems to have amassed huge illegal wealth through his brokering on behalf of US and other foreign companies and safeguarding their interests in India. Without further delay, the government must pursue the case of Pansari to nab the bigger dealers and find out similar cases of brokering that is carried out at the highest echelons of business, at the cost of national interest and resource. And it should also without delay look into the allegations against both Caterpillar and Komatsu and seriously chase their case too.