Team Anna says it has no faith in the CBI as the investigative agency is directly controlled by the prime minister and hence would not properly investigate its own boss
Even as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has started verifying the allegations of irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks to private companies between 2006 and 2009 and their misuse by them, Team Anna has said that this is mere eyewash and in the end, the prime minister would be given a clean chit.
"We have no faith in CBI investigating the Coalgate scam because the agency reports to the PM and is directly controlled by him. So by no stretch of imagination one can assume that CBI will be able to do a fair investigation against its boss. The outcome of such an investigation is already known-The PM will be given a clean chit at the end of the investigation," Team Anna said in a release.
"If PM is really honest why is he scared of independent investigation? Why does he want himself to be investigated by an agency directly controlled by him? These questions raise serious doubts in the mind of the people. We have been demanding setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) independent of the government," it said.
Here is the Team Anna's rebuttal to PMO's clarification…
Allegations of corruption were made by Team Anna in the allotment of coal blocks especially during the period 2006-09 when the PM was handling the charge of coal ministry. The PMO has issued a seven-point clarification in this regard. It is unfortunate that this clarification is misleading and seeks to hide many critical facts.
It is being said that the government decided to introduce the concept of competitive bidding in 2005. However, according to the government, it is the consensus building for the proposed legislative amendments required to achieve that is what took so much of time.
This argument of the PMO is misleading as:
Between 2004 and 2006 there was a series of communication that happened between the ministry of coal (MoC) and the Department of Legal Affairs (DLA). The MoC wanted DLA's views on the way in which competitive bidding can be introduced as the mechanism for allocation of coal blocks. The law secretary repeatedly opined in July 2004, July 2006 and again in August 2006 that amendment to any existing Act (CMN or MMDR) is not a prerequisite to introduce competitive bidding for allocation of coal blocks. Therefore, introduction of competitive bidding was legally feasible for MoC. Despite this the MoC employed a screening committee route to allocate coal blocks till 2009. Why? Moreover, why did it take six years to build consensus on the amendment to the Act and pass it. So many Acts have been passed in days. In fact, it was the PMO which shot down the proposal for issuing an ordinance saying that there was no urgency.
PMO has given the following arguments for not opting for auction or competitive bidding:
a. It is being said that "Coal blocks were never looked upon as a potential source for generating revenue for the central government… Hence the question of maximizing revenue does not arise at all".
i. This appears to be the most specious argument presented by the PMO. It was not ordinary revenue that the government was foregoing. It is possible for different agencies to estimate this loss differently. However, CAG has estimated this loss as Rs1.8 lakh crore which certainly is not ordinary. Who took this decision to forego this revenue? The coal secretary kept on opposing allocation of coal blocks through the screening committee method. He wanted auctions. His opinion was repeatedly rejected by the PMO. Therefore the coal secretary was not a party to the decision to forego this revenue. So was this decision taken by PMO or the PM himself? Who in the PMO took this decision to forego revenue of this order? Does the PMO or PM have the power to take this decision? Is this decision recorded somewhere and can the minutes of this meeting be made public?
ii. The same argument was given by A Raja in 2G spectrum. This argument has already been rejected by the honourable Supreme Court.
iii. One fails to understand the internal contradiction in PMO's clarification. On one hand they say that it was decided to introduce competitive bidding in 2005 and the consultation process was started accordingly. Obviously the method of competitive bidding would have led to increase in revenue. So, in principle, they decided to maximize revenue. However, in practice they started allocating mines in an arbitrary manner foregoing revenues. So there seems to be an apparent contradiction in the policy decision and its implementation.
b. The demand for coal was increasing substantially, legislative changes would have taken a long time and therefore the Screening Committee was adopted.
This logic is far from truth. While up to 2005 total 75 coal blocks were allocated, this number went up to 145 from 2006 to 2009. Surprisingly, only one coal block has been allocated since 2010.
Is the PMO saying that the demand for coal was limited before 2005, increased suddenly between 2006 and 2010 and again came down to negligible after that. What are the factors that can explain such a trend in the economy?
According to the PMO-"Since the blocks are allocated to private companies only for captive purposes for the specified end use, the question of linking the blocks to the market price/CIL price of coal does not arise at all."
This argument is also misleading and factually incorrect. Earlier the policy of government was that coal blocks were given only to those companies which had captive requirements and only for their captive use. This policy was changed and it was decided to allocate coal blocks to even mining companies who would be required to have legal binding and enforceable supply contracts with subsequent end users. This clearly shows that these middlemen mining companies would make all the windfall gains. The government allocates coal blocks at a very cheap price with the hope that the benefit will go to the consumers. However, the mining companies don't do that. The mining company obtains coal blocks at throwaway prices from the government and provides coal to the end-user at market price thus making windfall gains. So it is not the consumer but the middleman mining company that benefits.
It is learnt that several companies which had no experience in steel, cement, power or mining were allocated coal blocks. Most of these coal blocks are yet to start production. In fact some of those companies which did not start coal production after receiving the blocks were subsequently again given more coal blocks despite their earlier violation.
How would the PM explain all these wrongdoings?
In this connection, pointed attention is brought to the following two extracts from the CAG report:
1. Audit observed that the procedure followed for allocation of coal blocks lacked transparency and it failed to arrive at the optimal price at which allocation of blocks should have been made. MoC had recognized (June 2004) that there was substantial difference between the price of coal supplied by CIL and the cost of coal produced through coal blocks allocated for captive mining and as such there was a windfall gains to the allottees.
2. The concept of competitive bidding was first made public by the government in June 2004 but was yet to be given effect to (Nov 2011). Competitive bidding would not only bring about 'objectivity' and 'transparency' in allocation procedure, but would also bring in revenue for the Government as part of the substantial windfall gains accruing to the allottees of captive coal blocks was to be tapped through competitive bidding.
According to complaints filed by BJP leaders, there was a delay of nearly two years in auctioning process and claims that the ministry had done so to benefit some private players
New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has started verifying the allegations of irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks to private companies between 2006 and 2009 and their misuse by them, reports PTI.
The agency received the complaint of BJP leaders Prakash Javadekar and Hansraj Ahir, from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). The BJP leaders have alleged that first-come-first-serve basis was adopted by the government to benefit some private companies.
CBI sources said the complaint that has been received has general allegations in which names or individual companies are not mentioned.
"We are happy that CVC has taken cognisance of our complaint. The CVC has written to us saying your complaints have been duly examined in the Commission having regard to the issues raised therein and the same has been forwarded to the CBI for a preliminary inquiry," Javadekar, who was accompanied by Ahir, told reporters.
The complaint also alleges that there was a delay of nearly two years in auctioning process and claims that the ministry had done so to benefit some private players.
The complaint also alleged that allocation of blocks to 156 companies was not proper as they had handed over operations to other companies at a premium.
It is also alleged the allottees of coal blocks did not start production themselves and outsourced the operation to third parties at a premium and pocketing the benefit.
In his complaint, Ahir had alleged that the price of 1,700 crore metric tonne of coal worth Rs51 lakh crore was given almost free to private companies.
In a statement last year, the BJP had alleged revealed that 51 companies were allotted coal blocks in 2006, 19 companies in 2007, 41 companies in 2008 and 32 companies in 2009, at a rate of Rs50 per metric tonne.
Usha Uthup has been enthralling listeners for over 40 years now with hit Bollywood tracks like 'Hare Rama Hare Krishna', 'Ek Do Cha Cha Cha' and 'Ramba Ho'. She now wants to do more roles in Hindi films
New Delhi: She took the audience by surprise appearing in “Saat Khoon Maaf” and singer Usha Uthup says she is looking forward to some meaty roles in Bollywood now.
The 64-year-old singer played a loyal help to Priyanka Chopra's character in the film directed by Vishal Bhardwaj. She even lent her voice to the hit song “Darling” in the film.
“I am waiting for good roles, looking for something meaty. In the meantime I have done a bit of acting in Kerala and Bengal. I hope I get some offers in Bollywood, another good role like I did in 'Saat Khoon Maaf',” Usha told PTI.
She has been nominated in the best playback singer category along with Rekha Bhardwaj for the track “Darling” at the upcoming International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards. The song has already got her a Filmfare award this year.
“I hope I win the IIFA award too,” said Usha.
Besides being nominated, the singer is going to perform at the IIFA Rocks in Singapore on 8th June, the night before the awards ceremony. She will be performing in collaboration with Leslie Lewis and Hariharan to mark 100 years of Indian Cinema.
“The combination of me, Hariharan and Leslie Lewis is amazing. Who would imagine the three of us teaming up? Our performance is a tribute to 100 years of Indian Cinema. It's been a real tough call short-listing songs from so many decades and from among hundreds of hit tracks,” she said.
This is the first time she would be collaborating professionally with Lewis and Hariharan. Usha says she is looking forward to the performance as they have been friends for years.
“It is really amazing because we have all been great friends for so long. I have had various opportunities to jam with Leslie when he used to perform at the Oberoi in Mumbai.
“Once in a while he used to bring his guitar along and we would jam together. He is an amazing musician. We’ve never done anything together professionally. This collaboration is something I am really looking forward to,” she said.
She has been enthralling listeners for over 40 years now with hit Bollywood tracks like ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’, ‘Ek Do Cha Cha Cha’ and ‘Ramba Ho’. She recently sung for “Kahaani” and “Don 2” besides “Saat Khoon Maaf”.
Usha says her singing career is the most happening right now. “I have been working since 1968, its been over 40 years now. People ask me, ‘What? You are still singing?’
“But its not ‘still’, it’s only now that I have really started singing, now that things are really happening. It's just fantastic. I couldn't have asked for anything better.
“I get very excited when people are shocked by my energy and my passion for work. I know that I am quite an inspiration for the younger generation. They work so hard and I do believe I am a source of inspiration for them as they think, ‘If she can do it at that age, we can do too’.”
Usha says she is busy travelling and performing stage shows besides appearing in reality shows.
“I am busy with a lot of shoots, reality shows. My basic thing is the stage, I keep performing. Between travelling, trying to take a nap on the flight and working on the shows, it’s just an amazing life. I couldn't ask for anything more. Life is really on a high right now," she said.