Be­hind the blocks

Down to Earth - - COVER STORY -

The first signs of the coal al­lo­ca­tion scam started emerg­ing in 2005. Han­sraj Ahir, four-time BJP MP from coal-rich Chan­dra­pur dis­trict in Ma­ha­rash­tra, wrote to of­fices of the prime min­is­ter and fi­nance min­is­ter ques­tion­ing the ba­sis on which coal blocks were al­lo­cated. On Novem­ber 30, 2009, Madhu Koda was ar­rested for il­le­gally al­lot­ting iron ore and coal min­ing con­tracts in Jhark­hand when he was the chief min­is­ter. It is said Koda and his as­so­ciates amassed over ` 4,000 crore by al­lo­cat­ing coal blocks.

In March 2012, the Comptroller Au­di­tor Gen­eral (CAG) of In­dia in its draft re­port ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of "in­ef­fi­cient" al­lo­ca­tion of coal blocks be­tween 1993 and 2010 and said the block al­lot­tees made wind­fall gains worth ` 10.7 lakh crore. Then, Ahir and 19 other MPs from Ma­ha­rash­tra, in­clud­ing cur­rent Union min­is­ter for en­vi­ron­ment, for­est and cli­mate change Prakash Javadekar, sub­mit­ted a signed pe­ti­tion on coal block al­lo­ca­tion in Par­lia­ment and to the Cen­tral Vig­i­lance Com­mis­sion (CVC). On May 31, 2012, the CVC or­dered a CBI in­quiry on the ba­sis of the pe­ti­tion.

In Au­gust 2012, CAG re­vised the al­leged gains of pri­vate par­ties to ` 1.86 lakh crore. That year on the ba­sis of the CAG re­port, Common Cause, led by Prashant Bhushan, filed a pe­ti­tion in the Supreme Court seek­ing can­cel­la­tion of the al­lo­ca­tion of coal blocks to pri­vate com­pa­nies be­tween 1993 and 2012 to up­hold Ar­ti­cles 14 and 21 of the Con­sti­tu­tion. Th­ese Ar­ti­cles per­tain to two fun­da­men­tal rights that guar­an­tee equal­ity and life and per­sonal lib­erty to the cit­i­zens.

On April 23, 2013, a Par­lia­ment Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on coal said coal blocks were dis­trib­uted be­tween 1993 and 2008 in an unau­tho­rised man­ner. It rec­om­mended can­cel­la­tion of mines that have not started pro­duc­tion. The CBI, on June 11, 2013, regis­tered FIR against Naveen Jin­dal and Dasari Narayana Rao. On Oc­to­ber 16 that year, it filed an FIR against in­dus­tri­al­ist Kumar Man­galam Birla and for­mer coal sec­re­tary P C Parakh.

On Au­gust 25, 2014, the CBI de­cided to close its case against Birla and Parakh.

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