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Coal-gate scam to set Parliament on fire

August 05, 2012 18:16 IST

The coal-gate involving Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in allocation of the coal mines to private parties is set to put Parliament on fire beginning its monsoon session on Wednesday as the CAG report is ready for presentation which will provide ammunition to opposition to fire at the government for the massive scam.

It may, however, deteriorate into a blame game from both sides as the government is also ready with a report that the blame should go to four opposition-ruled states recommending the rogue companies for allotments.

Most of such companies which used allotments to sell coal at premium in black are the opposition-ruled Odisha (ruled by Biju Janata Dal), West Bengal (formerly ruled by Left), Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand (both by BJP).

Since the coal blocks are allotted by a screening committee headed by the Union coal secretary, who functioned under Dr Manmohan Singh holding additional charge of the coal minister for three years, the opposition is putting blame on 'Mr Clean PM' for the multi-lakh crore scam as the final approval came from him.

The government is, however, making out a case that the state governments' representatives are members of the screening committee and hence they were also part of the sanction process and they should have kept an eye on the allottees to prevent misuse of the licences they got for mining the black gold in their respective states.

Just to put off the opposition's fire, the government may ask the Central Bureau of Investigation to register a regular case against the guilty private companies, officials of the coal ministry and unknown officials in the state. The case may be registered as early as next week-end, highly placed sources said.

The CBI has found that irregularities in allotment of coal blocks took place mostly in the four opposition-ruled states and the major coal block allotments to the private companies were made on the recommendations of these state governments.

"We are looking into the memorandums of understanding that state governments have signed with the companies to whom the blocks were allocated. In fact, we have suspicion that some of these entities were ineligible and some used front companies to get allocations in their favour," a top CBI official involved in the probe disclosed.

He said the agency has already identified a particular private company not eligible for allotment but got it because of the crucial role played by the four state governments.

According to a CBI report submitted to the government, between 2006-2009 more than 60 coal blocks were allocated to private companies after an approval of the screening committee. The allocation was then cleared by the prime minister's office since Dr Manmohan Singh was then holding the additional charge of the coal ministry.

The CBI has scrutinised the details of seven screening committee meetings from 2005 to 2008. A total of 146 private companies were selected during this period out of 1,422 applicants.

A Correspondent in New Delhi