Percentage of Irregular Coal Block Allocations will be The Test of Truth

All through last five years, BJP kept shouting Coal Scam.

Yesterday, when the Supreme Court of India, declared all coal blocks allocated since 1993 as illegal; BJP also came under the scanner. This is not a small thing as the Supreme Court declared the allocation of about 218 coal blocks between 1993 and 2009 illegal. Whether to order the cancellation of all the illegally allocated coal blocks , the SC will decide at hearings starting next week. This also means that, which of the illegally allocated coal blocks the SC will set for cancellation, will depend on the extent of irregularity.

The allocations relate to the period from 1993 to 209, during the regimes of both the NDA and UPA governments. Out of these 218, 190 of the allocations were done during UPA Government. The UPA government, which had defended these allocations in January, when the court reserved its order. The 35 allocations were made during Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government.

Although, even one irregular allocation of country’s valuable resource is condemnable; but the true test of Truth will be the the percentage of irregular allocations done during each Government — UPA and NDA.

The numbers will give a misleading conclusion, as owing to an ever increasing pace of economic growth, the number of irregular allocations are obvious to grow in numbers (since total allocations in Narasimha Rao Government was 5 , in Atal Bihari Government it was 35 and in UPA ‘s two terms, it was 176 or so). The percentage of Irregular allotments will thus give the right conclusion (10 irregular allocations out of 35 in BJP Government is equal to 52 out of 176 in UPA two terms. Both are 30 percent).

This is important because, irrespective of who blamed whom, the various reports and investigative articles which came out so far, indicate that Coal allocation was treated as a merry time by politicians and influential people of every political leanings and shades. ask yourself, who receives the contracts of sand, concrete, timber etc. at your place … and you will understand. And if country’s resource was looted then BJP benefited from it as much as Congress did. If Congress would have been the sole beneficiary (politically, individually etc.), then BJP wouldn’t have allowed even a single irregular coal block allocation, that too when one of the largest coal producing states in India, the Chhattisgarh, has BJP rule since 2004.

Below is coal allocation picture, from 1993 to 2008 :

An accommodating Law

Some months ago, when Former Coal Secretary P.C. Parakh was singly blamed for irregularities in Coal Blocks allocation, he said that what he followed was the statute. Now CBI has told the SC that it wants to close the Coal allocation case, as it has not found anything substantial.

The reason why Parekh was right then and now is, it appears that the law governing the coal block allocations was so accommodating that even if allocations are made to undeserving companies and people; the Secretary can do nothing about it (he even wrote a book about it).

There’s ambiguity in the Law, that’s why the Supreme Court in its verdict yesterday, didn’t cancel the illegal coal blocks. There’s ambiguity in law, that’s why after the verdict, the new BJP Government’s one line statement was : The uncertainty on the coal block allocations should be cleared.

For the same reason , the SC called the coal allocation as an “ad-hoc and casual” approach “without application of mind“.

Prime Minister Office on Twitter has remained silent on the judgement. A one liner must have been there, especially when the PM spoke much about it during election campaigning.

Coal Allocation through Bidding was opposed by All

In 2004 (it was widely reported later on) the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent letters to the Chief Ministers, who are equal stakeholders in Mineral resources (as they are the ones who have the ores in their states) , on auctioning the Coal Blocks. Most Chief Ministers, including those of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat etc. opposed the auctioning. The idea was to benefit from an accommodating law. According to reports, published in major dailies, coal blocks were allocated to companies just one day old, with a couple of lakhs capital and to individuals with no capacity and expertise to develop the allocated coal blocks for mining.

To conclude, it will be too difficult for the Courts to segregate the illegal from the legal allocations, as the Law itself would not be clearly putting as to who can get a coal block. From the look of the things, it appears to be the case.  Anyway, lets wait for the moment SC starts testing the allocations on the benchmark of the extent of irregularity.