‘Neither BJP nor Congress wants a discussion (on coal allocation). Because many skeletons from many cupboards are going to tumble out’

Idea Exchange

In this Idea Exchange moderated by Special Correspondent Manoj C G, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury speaks about coal block allocation, the logjam in Parliament and why he thinks CAG hasn't exceeded its brief

Manoj C G: After the CAG report on coal allocation, you said the loss to the exchequer was larger than the loss in the 2G scam. But you had demanded the resignation of A Raja, the telecom minister then, in the 2G case, this time you haven't. What is the difference?

The difference is that in the 2G case, it was quite clear that there had been very clear-cut violation of norms whereby the first-cum-first-serve policy was implemented. Changes were made after the announcement of the first-cum-first-serve decision and people were asked to deposit money. Everything was done in a manner that pointed to large-scale sleaze. Secondly, this was confirmed the moment two companies had offloaded their shares or expanded at a very high price after they got the licence. That in itself showed that the market value (of spectrum) was much higher and the private companies who got the licences were making money that should have gone to the government. In the coal scam, a major share of the windfall profits the private companies have made should have gone to the government—that is what CAG says. However, of the allocations made thus far, none of those allottees have actually sold out the allocations and made money out of the allocations.

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We see the coal block allocation process as being a backdoor privatisation of your nationalised coal reserves. The argument put forth in 1993 when the law (Coal Mines [Nationalisation] Act) was amended—which we opposed then—was that iron ore had not been nationalised, that you had private steel factories and private cement factories and private fertilisers factories which required power. They required coal to produce that power and therefore, you gave them captive coal mines. This was the logic at the time. After the law came into existence, the question arose as to who will allocate this coal? The states have their rights over their raw material. The Centre amended the law so that they could allocate these coal blocks. So how does this work between the Centre and the state? States, like our state government in West Bengal, had said that if you must lease out these mines as captive mines, then you don't do it from the Centre.

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