The Highway to Coalgate

The coal scam found its way into the headlines in March 2012 when a draft report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) estimating a windfall gain of Rs 10.7 lakh crore got leaked.

The CAG brought down the loss to exchequer to Rs 1.86 lakh crore in its final report in August 2012 but by then the damaged had been done for the UPA government. By then a CBI probe was ordered and the case’s tumultuous journey started.

Coal_Scam_CBI_q17720

Through twists and unexpected turns, the scam revisited in regular intervals in the past 29 months — from “missing files” to resignation of then Law Minister Ashwani Kumar for “correcting” CBI affidavit to Supreme Court calling the investigating agency a “cage parrot”.

In between, the government also sought to puncture CAG’s presumptive loss theory, saying it was flawed and there was no loss, as mining has not been done.

It all started with the CAG questioning the government allocating coal blocks without an auction and causing a windfall gain to companies. The CAG felt that the government could auction the coal blocks at least since 2006 after the government got a legal opinion but chose not to do so.

With the scam to light, Public Interest Litigations (PILs) were filed in Supreme Court alleging that proper guidelines were not followed during the UPA regime. Later, the court included the allocations since July 14, 1993 and in effect bringing the allocations during NDA rule also under the scanner.

M_Id_381400_coal_block_allocation

While total of 70 coalmines or blocks were allocated between 1993 and 2005, 53 were allocated in 2006, 52 in 2007, 24 in 2008, 16 in 2009 and 1 in 2010. Out of this, 24 were taken away at different points in time, effectively leaving the total number of allocated blocks at 194.

Even before the final CAG report came, the CVC ordered a CBI inquiry into the scam in May 2012. The agency has so far named several companies and politicians like Naveen Jindal and Vijay Darda in 28 cases it registered.

In one of the cases, it also named business tycoon Kumaramangalam Birla and P C Parakh in an FIR for alleged irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks to Hindalco. Parakh questioned the move asking CBI how they could not name then Prime Minister Singh as he was handling the Coal Ministry when the allocation happened. This case is now headed for closure, as CBI could not gather any evidence of wrongdoing.

The case also witnessed a twist August last year when then Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal claimed that some crucial files went missing.

Last year, CBI Director Ranjit Sinha also admitted to the SC that its initial report on the scam had been shared with the then Law Minister Kumar as well as bureaucrats from the Coal Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office. He also said certain changes had been made to the report. A furore followed and Kumar had to resign.

THE HIGHWAY TO COAL SCAM

27coal3

** July 1992 — Coal Ministry orders setting up of a screening committee

** July 1992 — List of 143 coal blocks identified for allocation

** March 2012 — CAG’s draft report estimates windfall gains at Rs 10.7 lakh crore.

** May 2012 — CVC orders CBI enquiry.

** June 2012 — Coal Ministry forms an inter-ministerial panel to review the process of allocation.

** August 2012 — CAG report tabled in Parliament. Loss estimated at Rs 1.86 lakh crore.

** August 2012 — Govt claims CAG’s presumptive loss theory flawed.

** August 2012 — Observations of CAG clearly disputable: PM

** September 2012: PIL in SC seeks cancellation of 194 coal block allotments. SC begins monitoring CBI probe

** March 2013 — Supreme Court asks CBI not to share probe details with govt

** April 2013 — Parl Standing Committee report says coal blocks distributed between 1993-2008 done in unauthorized manner.

** April 2013 — CBI submits affidavit saying investigation report shared with law minister Ashwani Kumar.

** May 2013: Ashwani Kumar resigns.

**June 2013: CBI registers FIR against Naveen Jindal and Dasari Narayana Rao.

** October 2013: CBI files FIR against Kumarmangalam Birla and PC Parakh.

** July 2014: Supreme Court sets up a special CBI court to try all coal field allocation cases.

** August 2014: The CBI decides to close its case against Birla and Parakh.

COAL BLOCK ALLOCATIONS

coal_scam

1993-2005 — 70

2006 — 53

2007 — 52

2008 — 24

2009 — 16

2010 – 01

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on August 26, 2014)

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‘Sonia betrayed me, Rahul has no fire, Manmohan defends nobody’

Former External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh believes his life has been reasonably interesting and there was no reason not to write his memoir. He chose ‘One Life Is Not Enough’ as the title for his tell-all autobiography after discarding his first three choices – Just Passing By, Double Life and An Autobiography of a Known Indian. Now he feels “one book is not enough” and planning to come out with “My Irregular Diaries”. I spoke to Singh on Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on August 7, 2014 afternoon at his 105, Jorbagh residence (in New Delhi). Excerpts:

one-life-is-not-enough-an-autobiography-400x400-imady7ech5ugwpbs

Your book, now just a week-old, is a big hit. But you are talking about a new book

I have been keeping a diary for past 60 years. But it is not a sequel. This book will be about people whom I have met, with whom I worked, about books I read. It will not about politicians alone. Another book because I am not interested in politics at this age. I am not a one-dimensional person.

Our leaders are reluctant to write memoirs

Ten years ago, I remember telling Sonia Gandhi that you must write your autobiography. She said ‘no, I will not write. Priyanka is writing my biography.’ I said I would join her. When she said the other day that she would write a book, I said she should start tomorrow. People want to read that. I am happy if she writes. But I think she made a mistake by replying to me. Because she never replies and that helped further to sell the book.

There is accusation that your act was a betrayal of faith

I have not betrayed. Sonia betrayed me. When the Volcker report came, I was in Moscow. Everybody here picked up my name. Why did not they name Congress? They talked about my son whose name is not there in the report. Since she told me that I was her close friend, I told her (when Sonia met Singh on May 7, 2014) that she should have asked me about it. She did not and a party spokesperson said Congress is clean and Natwar Singh will look after himself. I was outraged. This statement could not have been made without her knowledge.

Then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not support you?

He defends nobody. He does not stand up for his colleagues. I had a brief meeting with him after Volcker report. He said, ‘you should go and see Soniaji’. What for, I asked. When it is a question of honour and integrity, I will not succumb.

After resignation, what were you doing?

After I resigned in 2005 for about six years, all newspapers refused to publish my articles. They told me Sonia would be angry. Not a single article appeared. I cannot imagine Indira or Rajiv doing it. She did. (If she did not) Why did these people refuse to publish my articles?

You were targeted?

R C Pathak report said I did not do any wrong. Nobody talked about Congress though it was named in Volcker report. All Congressmen are talking about Volcker report. Why are they not talking about Congress? Where did the money go? They have to answer. I was targeted for nothing. Sonia is not used defying her. I defied her. I knew the cost. I was ready to face it.

Sonia did not ask you anything on Volcker?

People around her told her as he is very close to you, every body will think that you also took money. She should still have said no, I know him, Natwar will never do scam. She should have asked me to explain. She did not give me that chance.

Close friends and aides are targeting Sonia and Manmohan Singh. There is a problem with their leadership qualities?

Manmohan is not a leader but Sonia is, Nehru was, Indira was and Rajiv was. Narendra Modi is a leader. Manmohan was never a member of Lok Sabha but a member of Rajya Sabha for 20 years – not from Delhi or Punjab but from Assam. What has he to do with Assam? Of course, he lacked (quality as a leader).

You just talked about leadership. What about our young leaders?

I think Rahul is a fine person who reads a great deal. He has a mind of his own. The real challenge came in 2014 polls. He did not do well. He was the star campaigner like Sonia. You cannot blame Congress workers for this defeat.

What is your advice to Rahul Gandhi?

Politics is not a part time job. It is a whole time undertaking. I don’t think Rahul is a whole time politician. He suddenly goes somewhere. A politician must have fire in his stomach for politics. I don’t think he has fire in his stomach. His experiment has failed. He knows it. Everybody knows that.

How do you see Modi as a leader?

He is a leader. He has a vision. I may not agree with that but he does have one. He is a forceful politician. Congress could not match his tactics. He was miles ahead.

Former Gandhi aide R D Pradhan counters your version of Sonia rejecting Prime Ministership. He says in 1999 itself, she has chosen Manmohan Singh. Also, he says it was Rajiv’s idea to have Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister.

He has exaggerated. How only he knows and nobody else knows this. Who was Pradhan in 1991? P C Alexander suggested I G Patel. When Patel said no, Manmohan was second choice. Manmohan was not keen to become Finance Minister. He said how I could make a u-turn on the report on South-South Commission. P V Narasimha Rao said no, I would back you. Manmohan was a brilliant FM.

Do you think as a Prime Minister, he was worse?

He makes a good number two.

Sanjay Baru’s book on Manmohan Singh has created ripples. How is your book different from Baru’s?

Baru is writing as an outsider. I am an insider. I have been in politics for 25 years. I worked in Indira Gandhi’s secretariat for five years and was a minister in Rajiv government. I was Principal Advisor for Sonia for ten years. Baru does not have that experience. But it is a very interesting book. He has revealed certain things.

You have worked with Nehru-Gandhi family for years. Who is your favourite Gandhi?

I have been a Nehruvite all life. I will be as long as I live. Nehru was second to Gandhi. He has vast knowledge. He gave us modern India. He was a great prime minister though not a great foreign minister. Other Gandhis are not a match to him. Nehru had an easy time.

Despite improving their numbers, UPA-II was in problems.

UPA-1 went off well. UPA-II was a disaster. Election result shows that. There were so many scandals, scams, law and order problems, terrorism and foreign policy with no direction. As a PM, coal gate, 2G, CWG all happened. I thought Sonia Gandhi would speak up. She should have publicly spoken.

Fresh IPS officers not to be posted in Maoist belt

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh may want “young, bold and courageous” officers in their initial years of services to lead the fight against naxals in problem states but 45 days after he made the suggestion, his Ministry says it has no such plans.

 Singh had made the remark at a meeting he chaired and attended by Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police to review the naxal situation on June 27. In the meeting, he said that young officers should be posted District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police in their initial years of service to provide “better local administration and leadership”.

However, the Ministry has not initiated any measures to bring the suggestion into reality. On August 12, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju virtually contradicted Singh by informing Lok Sabha through a written reply that the Ministry has no such plans to implement.

To a question on whether the government proposes to post newly inducted IPS officers in naxal-affected districts for a limited period of two or three years, Rijiju said, “at present, there is no such proposal to post newly inducted IPS officers in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas.”

Presently, 1,801 IPS officers are posted in naxal-affected states but the deployment of such officers in highly targeted Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are very less compared to others states like Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, which had reported the highest number of naxal related incidents in 2014 till July 7, has only 107 and 81 IPS officers respectively on ground to deal with Maoist-related actions. Jharkhand had reported 197 incidents in which 46 people, including 6 security personnel, were killed this year while Chhattisgarh had 179 incidents (71 killed, including 37 security personnel).

In contrast, UP has 384 IPS officers and West Bengal 251 in naxal areas though not a single incident has been reported from these states. The number of IPS officers in naxal areas in other states: Madhya Pradesh (243), Maharashtra (230), undivided Andhra Pradesh (207), Bihar (193) and Odisha (105).

Officials said they could do nothing much about this as police personnel in state cadre are deployed by the state government. Though a section of the security establishment has mooted the idea of deploying fresh IPS inductees, irrespective of their state cadre, for a period of two years, it has not found favour with others.

Those opposing the proposal claim that the fresh inductees may get an exposure in such areas but may not be of much use as what is needed is experienced personnel on the ground.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on August 18, 2014)

Very less women in central govt jobs

A day after Rajya Sabha discussed the condition of women in the country, the Centre has come out with more dismal picture on the fairer sex saying that they constitute only ten per cent of the workforce in the government apparatus.

In a written reply in the Upper House of Parliament on Thursday, the Ministry of Personnel said there were 3.11 lakh women personnel working in central government out of 30.99 lakh. This constituted 10.04 per cent of the total workforce.

However, the 2009 figures, the latest, is an improvement from 7.53 per cent (2.91 lakh) in 2001 and 7.58 per cent (2.88 lakh) in 1991.

Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh said the figures were culled out from the Census of Central Government Employees in 2012.

womenworking1

While the number of women is increasing, an interesting point was the decrease in the total workforce during these years. By 2009, there was a decrease of 7.7 lakh in the number of employees compared to the 2001 figure of 38.76 lakh. In 1991, the number of employees was 38.13 lakh.

In another written reply last month, Union Home Ministry had admitted that the percentage of women in police is not up to the “desired level” of 33 per cent.

During the discussion on women issues in Rajya Sabha, Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan objected to the Home Ministry’s earlier reply on the reasons given on why there was lower number of women personnel in para-military and police forces.

“Traditionally, women had not been inducted into the police force as it was thought that to maintain law and order, men were preferable.  It was only lately that women were specifically inducted into the police force to handle the presence of women agitators and crimes against women. Thus the proportion of women in police has lagged behind men,” Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said.

“Moreover, due to lack of adequate manpower in police stations, work pressure on policemen is quite substantial due to which they have to put in long working hours and leave even for emergent reasons are not granted. For women in police, this issue has been an impediment, as they have to balance professional needs with familial obligations. In addition, the lack of adequate government accommodation and public behaviour towards police has also been a barrier towards their joining the police force,” he said in the written reply dated July 30.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on August 15, 2014)

Communal incidents/Congress/BJPPolitics

With Congress trying to corner the BJP-led NDA government on communal riots, fresh data showed that the country witnessed 308 communal incidents this year until June with Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka topping the list.

An analysis of two sets of statistics provided by the government over a period of one month also showed that there was a surge in communal incidents in the two months of May and June with 113 cases compared to the first four months of the year, which reported 195 incidents.

The government placed the statistics on six months in Rajya Sabha through a written reply on Tuesday on a day when Congress forced the government to discuss the “‘Need for more effective mechanisms to deal with communal violence”. Congress has been alleging that there has been an increase in communal riots in the country after the new government took over on May 26.

Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge claimed that 600 communal incidents took place after Modi government took over, an allegation vehemently contested by the BJP. Kharge’s claim could not be backed by any official data and when countered, he himself cited the figures for May and June.

“Why are these incidents happening now? What is the reason? Who is behind these? These have increased in the last 2-3 months since the new government came. This is not a good sign,” Kharge said in Lok Sabha.

As per the fresh figures, the Union Home Ministry said Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of communal incidents this year at 56 followed by Maharashtra 51 and Karnataka 44. Telangana, which came into existence on June 2, has already one case of communal incident registered.

Interestingly, almost half (27) of the communal incidents (56) in UP took place during May and June while the 20 in Maharashtra took place during the same period.

In Karnataka, 11 incidents took place during these two months. Gujarat reported 26 incidents out of which 11 happened in May and June.

In these two months alone, 15 people were killed and 318 injured.

Last year, the communal incidents numbered 823 while in 2012 it was 668. In 2010, it was 580. Except for 2011, Uttar Pradesh topped the list.

Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Home, had earlier informed Rajya Sabha that the responsibility of dealing with communal violence rests primarily with state governments. To maintain communal harmony, he said the Centre assists states in a variety of ways like sharing of intelligence, sending alert messages and sending paramilitary forces.

 

State

 

2011

 

2012

 

2013

 

2014 Till June

 

UP

 

84

 

118

 

247

 

56

 

Maharashtra

 

88

 

94

 

88

 

51

 

Karnataka

 

70

 

69

 

73

 

44

 

Rajasthan

 

42

 

37

 

52

 

33

 

Bihar

 

26

 

21

 

63

 

32

 

Gujarat

 

47

 

57

 

68

 

26

 

Total*

(for all states)

 

580

 

668

 

823

 

308

 

 

 

 

Miniorities in paramilitary

Indian paramilitary forces have 86,000 personnel from the minorities but except for BSF and Assam Rifles, none of the forces has more than 10 per cent representation of minorities.

Of the total 8.62 lakh personnel in six paramilitary forces — BSF, CRPF, CISF, ITBP, SSB and Assam Rifles — only 85,918 are from the minorities, which around 9.95 per cent. The number of women from minority community is a dismal 2,240 and there are no women officers from these communities at the level of Inspector General or above.

Providing figures through a written reply in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said that there is no reservation fixed on the basis of religion in paramilitary forces. The question was raised by former Minister of State for Home Mullappally Ramachandran, now an MP from Kerala’s Vadakara.

BSF has the highest number of personnel from minority communities at 27,916 (11.69 per cent) out of 2.38 lakh. Of this, 730 are women from minorities, the highest in any paramilitary forces.

CRPF also has 26,269 personnel, including 637 women, from minorities out of 2.84 lakh.

While Assam Rifles has the highest percentage of minorities at 16.16 per cent (10,533 out of 65,179), the lowest is in ITBP that has 6.18 per cent or 4,865 personnel out of 78,721 personnel.

To another question, Rijiju said the number of militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir has considerably decreased since 1995.

There were approximately 6,800 militants of different organisations active during 1996, which however, were reduced to 240 in 2013. As on January this year, Rijiju said there were 199 militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir.

To the question raised by PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, Rijiju said that there was no proposal before the government to withdraw security forces from the state.

“The deployment of security forces at any point of time is decided based on the review of the threat perception at the highest operational levels in the central and state governments,” he said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald in August 2014)

Attempting suicide may not attract jail

Attempting suicide may not attract jail in the near future with the government planning to repeal Section 309 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) that makes the act punishable with a prison term of up to one year and fine.

The government’s move is in line with the recommendation of the Law Commission report on ‘Humanisation and Decriminalisation of Attempt to Suicide’, which had termed the jail term as “inhuman, irrespective of whether it is constitutional or unconstitutional”.

Union Home Ministry has recently informed Lok Sabha that it is in the process of “effacing Section 309 of IPC as recommended by the Law Commission in its report. Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Home, said in a written reply in Lok Sabha that discussions in this regard are on.

Rijiju also referred to the Law Commission report on the decriminalising attempt to suicide.

The Supreme Court had in 1994 decriminalised attempt to suicide, saying Section 309 violates Article 21 of Constitution that talks about to Right to Life. The apex court had then felt that the right to live of which Article 21 speaks of could be said to bring in its trail the right not to live a forced life.

However, two years later the Supreme Court overruled the 1994 judgement holding that Article 21 cannot be construed to include within it the “Right to Die” as a part of the fundamental right guaranteed therein, and therefore, it cannot be said that section 309 is violative of Article 21.

The 210th report was not the first time that the Law Commission recommended repeal of Section 309. In its 42nd Report submitted in 1971, the Commission recommended repeal of section 309. The Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 1978, as passed by Rajya Sabha provided for omission of section 309 but before it could be passed by Lok Sabha, the Lower House was dissolved and the Bill lapsed.

In a letter to then Law Minister H R Bhardwaj, Law Commission Chairman Justice A R Lakshmanan, who prepared the 210th report, had said, “it is felt that attempt to suicide may be regarded more as a manifestation of a diseased condition of mind deserving treatment and care rather than an offence to be visited with punishment.”

In the report, the Commission said Section 309 needs to be deleted because the provision is inhuman, irrespective of whether it is constitutional or unconstitutional. The repeal of the anachronistic law would relieve the distressed of his suffering, it said.

Several states have sent their comments concurring with the recommendation of the Law Commission while responding to a query by the Union Home Ministry some time back.

The Commission had also argued that attempting suicide was “manifestation of a diseased condition of mind” that called for treatment and care rather than punishment.

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