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"Coalgate" scandal brings India's parliament to a halt
Multi-billion rupee scam rocks IndiaIndian MPs protest outside parliament
- Swati Deb
- September 6, 2012
The governmentâ€™s response has been a series of 30 raids on suspects in the coal industry graft case now known as â€śCoalgate,â€ť including several companies and at least one congressman. The raids were carried out on September 4 by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The Coal Minister, Sriprakash Jaiswal, told reporters that the investigation showed the governmentâ€™s commitment for probity in public life. BJP spokesman Prakash Javedkar retorted that it proves there has been wrongdoing.
From the top down, the country has been rocked by this latest slew of allegations of kickbacks and nepotism on an unprecedented scale.
In a report released in mid-August, the nationâ€™s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) estimates a loss to the state exchequer that could amount to US$37 billion. The report states that the government â€śdid not followâ€ť transparent and objective methods.
The government defended itself by saying the CAG estimate of the possible loss is only a guess. Finance Minister P Chidambaram went further to say there was â€śno lossâ€ť as no mining of coal has been done yet.
The case centers around the governmentâ€™s allocation of coal deposits suitable for mining, known as coal blocks. Â The government made the allocation of several coal blocks without auction, resulting in spectacular windfalls for some private operators.
The opposition is keen to point out that Manmohan Singh himself was closely involved at the time on a ministerial level.
â€śThe truth is, the corruption and gross impropriety in the coal blocks allocation will end at the prime ministerâ€™s doorstep. He has to quit,â€ť Arun Jaitley, leader of the opposition in the upper House of Parliament told ucanews.com.
Coal block allocations for private firms started in 1993, two years after the government liberalized its economic policies.Â â€śThis was done as the government-owned concern, Coal India Ltd, was unable to meet the growing demand,â€ť said a senior official at the coal ministry, who cannot be named.
The scandal is the fifth corruption case the ruling establishment has faced in the past eight years.
Earlier, the CAG had alluded to kickbacks and dubious deals in the allocation of 2GÂ telecom licences, leading to a Â US$32 billion loss.Â Corruption on a massive scale was also alleged in the organizing of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi two years ago, as well as a housing scheme for widows of war victims and the privatization of Delhi airport.
These scandals all resulted in a round of resignations and the imprisonment of several government ministers and executives.
â€śThe fungus of corruption has eaten into all spheres of life in India,â€ť
said Hari Jaisingh, a senior journalist in New Delhi. Â â€śThe scandals have definitely nosedived the credibility of the prime minister, who was credited till the other day for honesty,â€ť he told ucanews.com.
This latest case has also turned the mood in the country against the government. The international press such as Time magazine rated Singh as an â€śunder achieverâ€ť and more recently The Washington Post called him a â€śtragic figure.â€ť
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