The government rejected the CAG report estimating a huge gain of Rs 1.86 lakh crore to private firms in allocation of 57 coal blocks, asserting the calculations were faulty and the gain notional.
Defending the coal allocations between 2005 and 2009 without competitive bidding, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said that the method adopted was "transparent".
Addressing a press conference after placing of the CAG report in Parliament, Jaiswal said the auction route was not chosen as there were conflicting opinions from the Law Ministry in 2006.
Besides, there was strong opposition from Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and West Bengal, then ruled by the BJP and the Left, against competitive bidding, he said.
These states had said this would result in increase in coal and power prices.
"The three governments said the existing system of allocation should not get changed at any cost… In the federal structure, we have to respect the opinions of state governments," the Coal Minister said.
He said the allocation process "was totally transparent, policy was entirely correct… If there is any irregularity, that is being investigated by the CBI".
About the estimated Rs 1.86 lakh crore likely gain to be made by the private parties, he said "This is notional. I am not here to challenge any authority. Their (CAG's) work is to conduct audit, government's work is to make policies and take decisions while taking care of people of the country."
The CAG report said that part of the money, from the 57 blocks allocated to the private sector, could have accrued to the national exchequer had the procedure of competitive bidding was put in place earlier.
"We are not in agreement with the CAG calculation in its entirety… When blocks are not operative,it is not a right idea to do calculation; it is faulty", he said.
Jaiswal said the private parties were involved in the development of coal blocks as the state-owned Coal India was not able to meet the growing requirements of the fuel.
"We felt that the country's coal requirement cannot be met by Coal India alone. The system of allocating coal blocks(to companies other than Coal India) was started. Therefore, the policy on coal blocks allocation was made. No policy could have been better than this," he said.
Since 1993, the allotment of coal blocks was done through a mechanism of Inter-ministerial Screening Committee. Headed by the Coal Secretary, the committee had representatives from the state governments, concerned ministries of the Central Government and the coal companies, an official statement said.
In the dock over three new CAG reports, Government stressed that these were not final and accused the auditor of not following its mandate.
"I am not going to say anything on the merit of this. Because unfortunately CAG has got a mandate under the Constitution. According to me, the CAG is not following its mandate, which I feel, I wish to bring to notice," Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy told reporters in New Delhi on Friday.
He was reacting to questions on the three CAG reports — on allocation of coal blocks, Delhi International Airport Limited and Ultra Mega Power Projects — which rapped the government for favouring private firms.
Narayanasamy insisted that the CAG reports were incomplete as they were not yet examined by Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
"They (CAG reports) have to be tested before Parliament. It comes before the PAC. The PAC is like a mini-parliament. It will consider the views of political party members. Then only it will become final. Therefore, draft report will not become final," he said.
Narayanasamy blamed the media for creating "confusion" in the country over the reports.
Holding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "morally, politically and personally" responsible for the Rs 1.86 lakh crore loss estimated by CAG in coal block allocation, the BJP today demanded that he should quit his post.
"The facts leading to the delay are incontrovertible. The Prime Minister is morally, politically and personally responsible for this wrongful loss. He must seriously introspect on accepting the moral responsibility for this loss and quitting his office," Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said.
The CAG report establishes that the concept of competitive bidding for coal blocks was first conceived on June 28, 2004, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said. It has been put into practice after notification only on February 2, 2012. To give effect to this policy itself, eight years have lapsed, she said.
The main Opposition held Dr Singh directly responsible for this delay as he held the Coal portfolio for five of these eight years.
Cambridge Analytica: BJP Accuses Congress of “Misuse of Social Media”
BJP today charged Congress with taking help of tainted Cambridge Analytica for 2019 elections and asksed Rahul Gandhi if he wants to win elections by manipulating and stealing data.
The fallout of the Facebook data leak expose and its misuse by an election consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 US Presidential elections allegedly in the favour of Donald Trump has reached Indian shores.
The day saw the BJP accuse the Congress party of having ties with Cambridge Analytica while the Congress did its own finger pointing back at the BJP.
Even Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg has been put on notice by the govt if the personal data of over 200 million Indian Facebook users has been similarly misused.
Party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad cited media reports on opposition’s plan to use the firm’s services for next Lok Sabha elections.
He even wondered if Rahul Gandhi’s Twitter followers increased due to Cambridge Analytica. He said Misuse of social media for political gains will not be tolerated.
Law Minister even warned Facebook of stringent legal action against any misuse of data of more than 200 million Indians on its platform.
Though Congress has denied all allegations.
Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are in midst of controversy over the harvesting and use of 5 crore users’ personal data. Two newspapers reported that the company harvested personal data of Facebook users beginning in 2014.
Firm had been credited with helping Donald Trump to presidential victory. Data was allegedly utilized to direct messages for political campaigns.
Following this Cambridge Analytica’s CEO Alexander Nix, has since been suspended, while Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been summoned by the chairman of a parliamentary committee in U.K & in the U.S. He has been asked to testify before Congress about how Facebook will protect users.
Moreover, Facebook’s shares also declined following this controversy, though both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have denied any wrongdoing. But they still have lot to explain.
It’s a Four; Lalu Yadav Convicted in Yet Another Case
Judge Shiv Pal Singh pronounced Yadav and 18 other accused in the case guilty and acquitted 12 accused.
A special CBI court in Ranchi on Monday convicted RJD chief and former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav in the fourth case of fodder scam in which he figured as an accused.
Former Bihar CM Jagannath Mishra was acquitted by the court, which will pronounce the sentences on Wednesday.
The verdict in the Dumka treasury case of Bihar’s Rs 1,000-crore fodder scam came as a jolt to RJD, Bihar’s main Opposition party that has the largest number of MLAs in the state Assembly.
Before this, Yadav, 69, has been convicted in three other cases of the scam that was unearthed in the mid-1990s when he was chief minister and had forced him to step down in 1997.
Judge Shiv Pal Singh pronounced Yadav and 18 other accused in the case guilty and acquitted 12 accused.
The case (RC 38A/96) pertains to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 3.76 crore from the government treasury in Dumka, presently in Jharkhand, even though the withdrawal limit was fixed at just Rs 1.50 lakh.
Officials of the state animal husbandry department, some bureaucrats of the then undivided Bihar government and suppliers of animal food had colluded with politicians to withdraw the funds from the treasury through 96 fake vouchers between December 1995 and January 1996.
Yadav was the chief minister of Bihar at the time.
Special CBI courts in Ranchi have earlier held Yadav guilty in three other cases of the scam.
He was handed a five-year jail term in the Chaibasa treasury case in September 2013; a jail term for three years and a half in the Deoghar treasury case in December 2017; and a jail term for five years in another case linked to the Chaibasa treasury in January last.
Not Yet Over for Raja, Kanimozhi in the 2G Case; ED Moves Delhi HC
ED, in its charge sheet, had alleged that Rs 200 crore was paid by Swan Telecom (P) Ltd (STPL) promoters to DMK-run Kalaignar TV.
The Enforcement Directorate on March 19 moved the Delhi High Court challenging a special court order acquitting former telecom minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and others in the money laundering case arising out of the 2G scam.
Besides Raja and Kanimozhi, the special court had on December 21 last year acquitted 17 others, including DMK supremo M Karunanidhi’s wife Dayalu Ammal, Shahid Balwa and Vinod Goenka of STPL, Asif Balwa and Rajiv Aggarwal of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd, film producer Karim Morani, P Amirtham and Sharad Kumar, Director of Kalaignar TV.
The ED, in its charge sheet, had alleged that Rs 200 crore was paid by Swan Telecom (P) Ltd (STPL) promoters to DMK-run Kalaignar TV.
On the same day, the trial court had acquitted Raja, Kanimozhi and 15 others, including former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura, Raja’s erstwhile private secretary R K Chandolia, Swan Telecom promoters Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka, Unitech Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra and three top executives of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (RADAG) — Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair, in the CBI’s 2G case.
The CBI had alleged that there was a loss of Rs 30,984 crore to the exchequer in allocation of licences for the 2G spectrum which were scrapped by the top court on February 2, 2012.
Special Judge O P Saini, however, had then held that the prosecution had “miserably failed” to prove the charges.
The special court, which was set up on March 14, 2011, for hearing 2G cases exclusively, had also acquitted Essar Group promoters Ravi Kant Ruia and Anshuman Ruia and six others in a separate case arising out of the 2G scam probe.
The first case, prosecuted by CBI, had 17 accused, while the second matter, pursued by ED, had 19 undertrials. The third one had eight accused including Essar promoters.
In the CBI case, Raja, Kanimozhi and 15 others were tried under provisions of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act dealing with offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery, using as genuine fake documents, abusing official position, criminal misconduct by public servant and taking a bribe.
BCCI Scraps Five-Minute Gap Between TV and Digital Broadcast of India Rights
Study Suggests Water May Exist in Earth’s Lower Mantle
Cambridge Analytica Scandal: Mark Zuckerberg Admits “Mistakes”
Haridwar and Rishikesh to Have 100% Sewage Treatment Facility
Avani Chaturvedi Creates History for the Indian Air Force
Significance of India Joining the Ashgabat Agreement
Also In The News
SCIENCE-TECHNOLOGY1 month ago
Solar System 2.0 May Have Water-Rich Planets, Says a New Study
DIALOGUE FOR CHANGE1 month ago
Consultations Begin on the New Industrial Policy
DEFENCE-SECURITY2 months ago
Artificial Intelligence in Military Operations: Technology, Ethics and the Indian Perspective
CHANGE ON THE GROUND1 month ago
India Registers Significant Decline in Child Mortality Rate