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Monday, August 27, 2012

Lost confidence sought!Blind run on corporate growth highway bypassing parliament, democracy and constitution.

Lost confidence sought!Blind run on corporate growth highway bypassing parliament, democracy and constitution.
Troubled Galaxy Destroyed Dreams, chapter- 796

Palash Biswas

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Lost confidence sought!Blind run on corporate growth highway bypassing parliament, democracy and constitution.This is the summary of coalgate parliamentary standoff, agrresive defence play by key players including the prime minister of India, understood to be responsible to us, the people and financial management of the Americanised economy of exclusion, excommunication, repression, misinformation, hate campaign, blind nationalism, segregation and ethnic cleansing!Manmohan Singh, who faces criticism for being silent in most of the cases, finally broke his silence over the coal blocks allocation issue which rocked the Parliament for so many days.Politicians chanting "quit prime minister" drowned out Manmohan Singh on Monday as he sought to defend his government's role in an affair dubbed "coalgate" that has paralysed parliament and created a sense of political crisis.Unfazed by the Prime Minister's 32-point statement in parliament and dwindling support from other parties, BJP on Monday said it will not retreat from its demand for Manmohan Singh's resignation and the parliamentary stand off seems to continue! As the BJP disrupted Parliament on the coal block issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday attacked the party and dared it to have a debate in the House to let the country judge the truth. Corporate India ,MNCs and Foreign investors are in deep sea as the controversy has stalled reform efforts at a time when the economy is suffering a sharp slowdown and investors are pressing for changes to rules to allow more foreign investment in the pension, retail, banking and insurance industries.On the other hand,Govt has been too busy dealing with Coalgate mess in Parliament to take note of Indian economy.Markets are likely to be under pressure at the start of the week due to the Coalgate scandal, which has paralysed Parliament.Besides, the market will probably be volatile with bouts of profit-booking ahead of GDP data for the first quarter of this fiscal that will be announced on Friday.The Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council has already lowered economic growth for FY13.The BSE Sensex ended lower Monday weighed down by banking stocks that witnessed a selloff ahead of the GDP data later this week. The Sensex declined 104 points or 0.6 per cent to 17679 while the broader Nifty index ended 36 points lower at 5350.


Deepak Parekh, chairman, HDFC told CNBC-TV18 that he was disappointed with Parliament where instead of debate and discussion on essential bills, the sessions were full of disruption.

"I am a little disappointed with the manner that Parliament is functioning. You can expect a debate and a discussion in a democracy, but what we are seeing is disruption and dislocation. We are losing time and these essential bills need to be passed," Deepak Parekh, chairman, HDFC    told CNBC-TV18.


On the government's inability to raise diesel prices, Parekh said, "I think we need to give finance minister Chidambaram a month after Parliament to see if he is able to initiate the hike. If he is not successful in reducing deficit, increasing prices or reducing subsidies then I think, we have no other option. But you can't continue to govern like this. All the  economic indicators will all go crazy and you will be downgraded for sure."

Parekh commented that the government was rendered helpless by the attitude and behaviour of some of the coalition partners. "Even if six-to-ten members of the coalition hold the country to ransom and bring all new initiatives to a halt, India will grow despite the government. We can come back maybe not to 9% or 10%, but at least to 7%."
(http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/economy/india-will-grow-despite-government-deepak-parekh_749779.html)


It reflects the corporate mood which envelops the ruling elite policy makers and institutions of governance and legislation!

TV channels were creating hype for trust vote but Chidambaram says govt won't seek trust vote!TV channels insisted quoting reliable sources that after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's strong defence of coal blocks allocation in Parliament on Monday, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government has decided to take the Opposition, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party, head on. Sources say the government is likely to bring a confidence motion in the Lok Sabha next week to show that it has the numbers on its side. Sources say that the UPA is united and all its constituents have assured the Congress of their support.A section of the Congress is keen to bring out the divide within the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance on coal blocks allocation out in the open. Some BJP allies like the Janata Dal (United) and Shiromani Akali Dal have not been vociferous in demanding the Prime Minister's resignation and instead have been keen on a discussion in Parliament.The move to seek trust vote, the first since 2008, comes after Manmohan Singh on Monday took the onus on himself for the coal blocks allocation from 2006 to 2009, giving an indication that he can lead from the front and was ready to take the challenge from the Opposition. "I want to assure Honourable Members that as the Minister in charge, I take full responsibility for the decisions of the Ministry," he said in his statement in Parliament. Earlier, on Saturday the Congress had challenged the BJP to bring in a no-confidence motion against the government instead of stalling Parliament proceedings.The BJP would not be bold enough to take such a course of action as it would not only expose its "true colour" but also fissures in the party-led NDA, Congress spokesperson and JPC chairman PC Chacko said in New Delhi.

Even as the Opposition continuously demanded Manmohan Singh's resignation and didn't let the House function, the Prime Minister defended himself saying the CAG report on coal blocks allocation was 'clearly disputable'. "I wish to say that any allegations of impropriety are without basis and unsupported by the facts," the Prime Minister said.

The Prime Minister also spoke outside Parliament and appealed to the Opposition to let Parliament function and give him a chance to defend himself. "This is an occasion where I do want and I wish I should be given an opportunity to speak in Parliament and to the public at large and take them into confidence. The BJP is determined to disrupt the House," the Prime Minister said.

Taking to Hindi poetry, Manmohan Singh added, "Hazaron jawabo se achi hai meri khamoshi (My silence is better than many answers). This is one occasion where I wished to speak to Parliament and public at large. I am sorry that the House was not allowed to function and the BJP did not allow the House to function."

It is also claimed contrary to prime minister`s parliamentary statement that there is no question of cancelling coal blocks allocation and Manmohan Singh will not resign, but is ready with his defence in Parliamentary Accounts Committee.


6:10 pm: No plans to adjourn Parliament before scheduled date, says Minister Ambika Soni

HRD Minister Kapil Sibal also denied that they had allowed a loss to the exchequer by allocation of coal blocks.

"The coal couldn't have been sold and so there is no question of loss," Sibal said.

Despite the Opposition refusing to relent, Minister of information and Broadcasting Ambika Soni also said they had no plan to adjourn the session of Parliament sine die and it was still scheduled to end till 7 September.

Chidambaram said they were willing to debate on the Prime Minister's statement in Parliament and it should be used to enlighten people.

"Till the session is on we will continue to report to Parliament every day and will urge the Opposition to join in it," he said.

The Finance Minister said that the Prime Minister had not criticised the CAG adding, "We are only fairly criticising a CAG report."

The Finance Minister also said that the Prime Minister would not be making a speech to the nation, given that he had already put his statement before Parliament.

6:00 pm: Chidambaram defends Prime Minister, demands Parliamentary debate

The Finance Minister quashed all speculation of a possible trust vote saying that the government enjoyed the confidence of the people and did not need to seek a confidence vote or move a motion in Parliament to prove it.

"We have no reason to move a confidence motion," P Chidambaram said.

The Minister also sought that the Opposition should return to Parliament to debate on the issue of coal block allocations.

"We are ready for a debate…If the two leaders of the Opposition can argue their case eloquently outside Parliament, I am sure they can do so just as well inside Parliament," Chidambaram said.

However, the debate on the issue of coal block allocations should take place in Parliament, he said.

"Prime Minister has made a long and detailed statement which deserves to be debated," the Finance Minister said. He also urged the Opposition leaders not to make sweeping statements against the government.

"The place to debate is Parliament and once again I ask our friends in the Opposition to come to Parliament and debate as long as your want," Chidambaram said.

"It is unfortunate that leaders of Opposition refuse to join debate in Parliament and place to do this debate is in Parliament," he said.

He also said there was no question of cancelling coal block allocations  as demanded by the Opposition since most of the allocations had been made to public sector companies.

5:30 pm: Parliamentary Affairs Minister says confidence motion isn't planned

Even as reports swirl that the Congress will go in for a confidence motion next week, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has reportedly said that there is no such plan. Or is it just that no one has told him yet?

The prime minister blasted parliamentary system and democratic norms to justify the corrupt governance in his defence.He insisted to prove the urgency of decision making favouring corpoarate India and MNCs to continue enhancement of growth rate and foreign capital inflow despite political compulsion and defended the erring companies citing cumbersome processes involved in getting statutory clearances....!" It does signify very much for the future of India as a nation sovereign and of course, us, the people who feel pride to be citizens of sovereign democratic republic as the head of the government explains how the government by passed statutory clearances to sustain corpoarte institution! Not to mention the constitutional validity and relevance of CAG at all!Rejecting CAG's contention that huge benefits were accrued to private parties, the Prime Minister said a part of gains would get appropriated by government taxation and the new mines bill which provides for 26 per cent of the profit by coal miners for development of local areas. Mind , you the prime minister`s defence puts the very process of policy decision making and even legislation in doubt. As we all know how all laws and ecve the constitution are subjected to amendment and modification in accordance with corporate lobbying and money. The Vedant accounts revealing donations to all political parties do prove the groundwork for the legislation.Unfortunatly all exercises of legislation is meant to push economic reforms at the cost of Indian people and the democracy we boast for so much so.Not only the mining bill, lang acquistion act and the long set of financial bills stregthen the black money hegemony and transform the country into an infinite killing fields. We have seen the pilot project in left ruled West Bengal very recently and suffered the blind run of comrades on the highway of indicriminate capitalism development, The growth story is all about open corporate market but packed as and in inclusive development package, ironically.

Manmohan Singh for the first time took charge and defended coal blocks allocation, which till now was being done by Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal. He has come out with a strong statement and taken a huge risk by taking the stand.It is only for the second time that Manmohan Singh has taken such a strong stand on a policy decision. The first time he did so was on the Indo-US nuclear deal on which he staked the survival of the UPA-I government in 2008 and won a vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha.If the Opposition is able to prove the charges of impropriety and irregularity against the Prime Minister, then he could be in serous trouble.

Dubbing CAG's computation of loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore in coal block allocation as "flawed" and "misleading", Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today took the battle to the Opposition camp, blaming it for thwarting the Centre's effort to shift to competitive bidding.On the other hand, for face saving, the bucks are transferred as usal and rejecting charges of wrongdoing in coal block allocations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the government has already initiated the process of cancelling mines to companies which failed to develop them and action would be taken against "wrongdoers" if any. Provided we believe the  maryada puroshottam and his statement in defence, if no wrong is done at all why should the government consider this step at all!Contending that CAG's observations were "clearly disputable", he stressed that the CBI was also "separately investigating" the allegation of malpractices on the basis of which due action will be taken against wrongdoers, if any.

"We have initiated action to cancel the allocations of allottees who did not take adequate follow-up action to commence production," Singh said in a statement in both Houses of Parliament amid uproar created by the BJP. The Prime Minister said the parties who were allotted mines could not start production which could be "partly due to cumbersome processes involved in getting statutory clearances...."However, the issue of delays in production, he said, was being addressed separately. The government had earlier said that of the 57 blocks allocated, 20 fall in no go areas and only one was operational out of the remaining 37.

"...a part of the gains would in any case get appropriated by the government through taxation and under the MMDR Bill, presently being considered by Parliament, 26 per cent of the profits earned on coal mining operations would have to be made available for local area development," Singh said.

The Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation (MMDR), Bill, which seeks to replace the 57-year-old MMDR Bill that governs the sector at present, provides for sharing of 26 per cent of the profit by coal miners and an amount equivalent to royalty by others with project-affected people.

Singh also said that blocks offered for captive mining were generally located in areas with difficult geological conditions whereas Coal India Ltd (CIL) has been extracting coal in areas with better infrastructure and favourable conditions.

Besides, he said, "Computation of extractable reserves on averages would not be correct...the cost of production of coal varies from mine to mine even for CIL due to varying geo mining conditions."

The government watchdog has computed financial gains to private parties as being the difference between the average sale price and the production cost of CIL of the estimated extractable reserves of the allocated coal blocks.

"Coalgate" is a short-hand reference to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report published on August 17 that questioned the government's practice of awarding coal mining concessions to companies without competitive bidding, potentially costing the treasury billions of dollars in lost revenues.

"I wish to say that any allegations of impropriety are without basis and unsupported by facts," said Singh, who is not expected to yield to the opposition's demands for him to go.

Until Monday, Singh had been silent about the report, which partly covered a period when he was also coal minister. His silence has proven politically costly as it has allowed the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to control the narrative and keep the government on the defensive.

While the CAG's report did not allege criminal wrongdoing by Singh's fragile coalition government it raised concerns about the non-transparent practice of awarding coal blocks by an inter-ministerial committee, which it said unduly benefited private and state power and steel companies.

The report was fodder for noisy political theatre in the parliament on Monday, where BJP lawmakers and members of the ruling Congress party engaged in a shouting match.

On the eve of a trip to Iran, Singh appeared in the lower house of parliament to offer a comprehensive four-page rebuttal of the main allegations in the auditor's report but only managed to utter a few words before the din forced him to sit down.

"Prime minister tender your resignation," opposition lawmakers shouted. Singh was silenced by similar chants when he tried to deliver the same rebuttal in the upper house of parliament a few minutes later.

In his written statement, Singh denied his government had done anything wrong, blamed the delay in introducing competitive bidding for coalfields on resistance from major coal-rich states that were ruled by opposition parties and said the findings of the state auditor were "clearly disputable".

The last time coal blocks were allocated under the old regime was in 2008. New legislation means that in future allocations will be made by competitive bidding, though the modalities of the process are still being worked out.

The Minutes(http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/current-affairs/cancel-all-142-coal-blocks-bjp-tells-pm_749564.html)

3.55 pm: LK Advani calls Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement on coal blocks allocation disappointing. Advani says he should not have criticised the CAG.


3.41 pm: Arun Jaitley says, "There is no personal disrespect for the PM. However, we have used this opportunity to highlight the scam in coal blocks allocations."

3.32 pm: Sushma Swaraj says, "The policy was deliberately delayed by PM so that the Congress party could get undue gains."

3.29 pm: BJP demands SIT probe into the allocations.

3.20 pm: BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley say that the PM should cancel all 142 coal blocks and put them to competitive bidding. "Once you do that, the truth will come out."

3.08 pm: Arun Jaitley says, "The PM's statement is an assault on Constitutional authorities. It is not proper that the PM put the blame on the states. Competitive bidding policy was proposed on June 28, 2004. States can't decide on allocation of major minerals. The PM should not blame states for UPA's failure. The PM must take moral responsibility and quit."

3.00 pm: BJP leader Sushma Swaraj says, "The PM must take moral responsibility and quit. Congress has usurped revenue from coal blocks. In last 4 years, 142 coal blocks have been allocated. The PM is unnecessarily blaming the states. The PM's statement has made our claim stronger. The UPA did not implement auction policy for 8 years."

2.08 pm: Lok Sabha Business Advisory Committee meets. While BJP boycotts the meet, NDA ally JDU attends it. The meet is held for a short duration discussion on the PM's statement on coal blocks allocations.

2.04 pm: Rajya Sabha adjourned till Tuesday.

2.02: Uproar continues in Rajya Sabha.

2.01 pm: Lok Sabha adjourned till Tuesday.

2.00 pm: Lok Sabha reconvenes, uproar continues.

1.33 pm: Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad says the MPs disrupting the House should be suspended. "The Speaker should suspend the MPs disrupting the house. BJP is shying from a debate as four of its CMs are involved. Why should the PM resign? The BJP has converted Parliament to a street," he adds.

1.22 pm: No coal block allocations took place after UPA I came to power, says Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal. "Not even 0.35 coal blocks were allotted," he adds.

1.21 pm: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says the CAG report on coal that mention a loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore to the national exchequer is highly misleading and can be questioned on many counts.

1.19 pm: Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal says, "The Opposition did not allow the PM to make the statement. I don't understand why there should be any doubt after this." "If the Opposition wants, we are ready to discuss the matter in Parliament," he adds.

1.08 pm: Congress leader Ambika Soni says, "The Opposition's strategy is wrong... I am extremely disturbed that Arun Jaitely has justified disruptions..." She adds, "The PM has made a statement making everything clear."

12.51 pm: BJP leader Prakash Javadekar says, "It is not a statement, but an excuse. Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley will give a point by point rebuttal of the statement."

12.49 pm: BJP makes it very clear that it has no faith in the government.

12.41 pm: BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy says, "A new pattern has come up. Charges of corruption seem to be legitimised through debate... Bizarre situation. The PM is trying to bunk CAG that is a constitutional body."

12.40 pm: Salman Khurshid says BJP looks "confused". "The BJP is doing an unreasonable thing, seeking an unreasonable thing. It is not acceptable."

12.35 pm: Congress leader Salman Khurshid says it is unfortunate that the PM was forced to make a statement.

12.32 pm: Rajya Sabha adjourned till 2 pm.

12.31 pm: PM says, "?The UPA I government, for the first time, conceived the idea of making allocations through the competitive bidding route in June 2004."

12.30 pm: Rajya Sabha resumes; PM makes statement amidst furore by Opposition.

12.24 pm: PM's statement says, "The policy (of allocation) existed since 1993 and previous governments also allocated blocks in precisely the manner that the CAG has now criticised."

12.23 pm: PM says, "My silence is better than a thousand words. This is one occasion where I wished to speak to Parliament and the public. I am sorry that House was not allowed to function. The BJP did not allow the House to function."

12.20 pm: PM says it is the BJP's "motivated attack" against the government. "This is one occasion I should be given to defend myself," he adds.

12.18 pm: PM appeals to the Opposition to come back to the House to discuss the issue. "The matter will come to the PAC. I appeal to the Opposition to come back to the House to discuss the issue," he says.

12.17 pm: PM says sorry for the repeated Parliament disruption. "I am sorry that the House has not been allowed to function. The BJP is determined to disrupt Parliament, but we have a strong and credible case," the PM adds.

12.16 pm: PM speaks outside Parliament.

12.11 pm: Lok Sabha adjourned till 2 pm.

12.10 pm: Prime Minister says the observations of the CAG on coal are disputable. "I wish to say that any allegations of impropriety are without basis and unsupported by the facts. I seek the indulgence of the House to make a statement on issues regarding coal block allocations," PM adds.

12.05 pm: Rajya Sabha adjourned till 12.30 pm

12.04 pm: Speaker requests PM to lay his statement on the table of the House.

12.03 pm: Prime Minister begins his statement.

12 noon: Parliament resumes; Furore in Lok Sabha as Opposition members rush to the well of the House demanding PM's resignation. Uproar in Rajya Sabha too as papers laid.

11.34 am: PM likely to make statement at 12 noon.

11.28 am: Shiromani Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur says the NDA is united and that the SAD is with the BJP. "There is no difference. The Akali Dal is with the BJP. The NDA is united. Of course the PM should give explanation. We are asking for PM's resignation because he is not giving any explanation. These are all Congress's tactics."

11.09 am: Speaker calls all-party meet.

11.07 am: Parliament adjourned till 12 noon.

11.05 am: Furore in Rajya Sabha over CAG report on coal. BJP MPs demand PM's resignation.

11.00 am: Parliament session begins. Uproar in Lok Sabha.

10.59 am: BJP meeting over, reiterates its demand for PM's resignation.

10.56 am: Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari says the different attitudes of the BJP in Delhi and Chhattisgarh reek of double standard.

10.52 am: JDU leader Sharad Yadav says the NDA remains united. "I don't want to say anything beyond that," he adds.

10.50 am: Shiv Sena sticks with BJP's stand, seeks PM's resignation.

10.49 am: BJP leader Balbir Punj says a person named in a scam cannot be sitting on the highest position.

10.34 am: PM may either read the statement amidst Opposition fire, or he may lay the statement on the floor of the House or he may clarify his stand in an address to the nation before he leaves for Iran on Tuesday.

10.25 am: Congress leader Rajiv Shukla says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will make a statement in both the Houses. "I request the BJP to let the PM speak," he adds.

10.20 am: Crucial NDA meet postponed after allies JDU and Akali Dal say the PM should be allowed to make a statement. BJP leaders hold meet.

10.19 am: Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa says there should be discussion coal allocations in Parliament.

9.07 am: Sources say that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will speak on coal blocks allocations in Parliament on Monday and if BJP obstructs Parliament again, the PM may lay the statement on the floor of the House.

In all likelihood, the deadlock in Parliament over coal block allocations will continue on Monday. It is, however, expected that the Lok Sabha Speaker would call an all-party meet to discuss the matter, if the Opposition doesn't allow Parliament to function on Monday.

Sources say that the Congress is hoping for a change of heart within the BJP. However, if that doesn't happen, sources say the all-party meet would be called in, where the Congress would reiterate its offer to discuss all scams and controversies.

Sources also say that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will clarify his stand on the coal allocations through an address to the nation before he leaves for Iran on Tuesday to attend the NAM summit on August 30-31.

Meanwhile, the BJP's efforts to reach out to non-NDA parties over the coal issue has reportedly borne limited success.

So far, only the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the AIADMK have supported it in seeking the PM's resignation on the floor of the House.

The Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party and the Left, however, have maintained a safe distance.

The main Opposition party, although, is not willing to give up just yet.

BJP leader Arun Jaitley said, "Disturbing information has surfaced that a valuable public resource was being allocated arbitrarily with the underlying condition of political funding of the party in power... The Prime Minister's office is a sacred institution in Indian democracy. It has to be judged by standards much harsher than those which would apply to Ministers like Shri A Raja. ...We, in the Opposition, are not interested in merely the issue being talked out through a one-day debate in Parliament.

"...If a debate is being used today to put a lid on accountability then an alternative strategy is necessary. Parliamentary obstructionism should ordinarily be avoided. However, in the rarest of rare cases, obstructionism also bring its dividends."


Meanwhile, coalgate turns to another dimension of civic repression as  Activists Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan were among four persons named by Delhi Police in its FIRs for "provoking" protesters during demonstration in the capital on the coal block allocation issue.

Police are also understood to have sought CCTV footage and video footage from various channels to identify people involved in rioting, especially those who protested outside the Prime Minister's Office in South Block.Five cases have been registered in Tuglaq Road and Parliament Street police stations yesterday, naming Kejriwal, Bhushan, Manish Sisodia and Kumar Vishwas in separate FIRs, a senior police official said. The names of Gopal Rai and Neeraj Kumar are mentioned in one of the FIRs.974 protesters were detained yesterday in connection with the protest by India Against Corruption in which 21 people, including 15 policemen were injured, the official said. The activists and other unknown persons were charged under 11 sections of Indian Penal Code related to rioting, not obeying lawful orders, defying prohibitory orders, assaulting government servants, provoking people to riot and a section under Prevention of Damage to Public Property, which is non-bailable.

On the other hand,  CPI-M also accused to be involved in coalgate, asked the government to cancel all the coal blocks allocation found faulty by the official auditor and said they may be auctioned.

CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury also refuted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's claim that states like West Bengal had wanted the coal blocks to be allotted and not auctioned.All the allocations made to private players since the Congress took power in 2004 should be cancelled, the Marxist leader told the media in New Delhi.He said none of the reasons advanced by the prime minister Monday explained why no transparent and competitive bidding process was introduced in the coal sector from June 2004 till August this year.He said the West Bengal government, which was ruled by the Left until last year, had never opposed auction of coal blocks but only insisted that the state's interests should not be bartered away.Yechury disputed the government claim that no economic loss had taken place because of the coal blocks allocation to the private players.He said a similar argument was taken by the government when the second generation spectrum saga erupted. Subsequently, however, the government had to axe all licenses and go for fresh bidding.

Rejecting BJP's charge that bribes were paid to it in coal blocks allocation, Congress today dared it to make public any proof it had and asked the opposition party to "look within" as its former president had been jailed for graft. Stung by the Opposition's continued tirade against Government on coal block allocation, the ruling party also questioned the legal mandate of the CAG to prepare such reports and accused BJP of making "very crude attempts" to gain "very cheap popularity". Hitting out at BJP leader Sushma Swaraj's remarks that Congress has got a "fat sum" from coal block allocation, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said it could be "BJP's culture" and pointed to the case former BJP President Bangaru Laxman, who was convicted of accepting bribe from a fictitious arms dealer to facilitate a defence deal. "BJP seems to be remembering old traditions. 24 out of 39 coal blocks allocated between 1998 to 2004 (NDA regime) were given to private companies. Did this happen in lieu of some political donation. This 'mota maal' and 'chhota mal' (fat sum or small sum) can be in BJP's culture. "That is not Congress culture. One of their former President was sentenced to jail term for such 'chhota maal' (small sum). One should look within first before casting aspersions on others," Tewari said, adding "we want to give BJP a challenge to make public if they have any such proof". Replying to questions on whether the government has any plan to bring a confidence motion, Tewari said, "At this point what we want is a discussion. We have got a mandate for five years...If somebody is feeling a bit itchy after remaining out of power for last eight years, there are Constitutional instrumentalities. They are free to explore the instrumentalities."


Singh's rebuttal came in the wake of Government auditor CAG computing that private firms gained a whopping Rs 1.86 lakh crore undue benefit from allocation of 57 coal blocks without competitive bidding between 2005 and 2009. The CAG, in its report tabled in Parliament on August 17, had said that blocks were allocated to private firms on nomination basis instead of competitive bidding, which amounted to Rs 1.86 lakh crore loss to national exchequer.It had named 25 companies including Essar Power, Hindalco, Tata Steel, Tata Power and Jindal Steel and Power which had got the blocks in various states.

Making a statement in both Houses of Parliament amid uproar created by BJP members, Singh refused to be on the back foot, declaring that he takes "full responsibility" for the decisions taken as he contended that the CAG's "observations" are "clearly disputable".

With BJP creating disruptions, he read out a few portions of his four-page statement before laying it in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha which were repeatedly adjourned because of uproar.

Conscious that the CAG reports are normally discussed in detail in the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament where the ministry concerned responds, Singh said he was departing from this established procedure "because of the nature of the allegations that are being made and because I was holding the charge of Coal Minister for a part of the time covered by the report."

Responding point-by-point to the CAG's observations, the Prime Minister said even if the government auditor's contention that benefits accrued to private companies were accepted, "their computations can be questioned on a number of technical points."

He asserted that aggregating the "purported gains" to private parties "merely on the basis of the average production costs and sale price of CIL (Coal India Limited) could be highly misleading."

As coal blocks were allocated to private companies only for captive purposes for specified end-uses, he said, it would not be appropriate to link the allocated blocks to the price of coal set by CIL.

The Prime Minister, whose resignation is being sought by the BJP, asserted that "any allegation of impropriety is without any basis and unsupported by facts".

Seeking to corner the Opposition over the issue, he said the policy of allocating coal blocks without competitive bidding existed since 1993 and previous governments also allocated "precisely in the manner that the CAG has criticised".

He also said major coal and ignite bearing states like West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Rajasthan "ruled by Opposition parties" were "strongly opposed" to a switch over to competitive bidding process.

On the charge of delay in bringing the Coal Mines Nationalisation (Amendment) Bill, 2000 to facilitate commercial mining by private companies, Singh said it was pending in Parliament for a long time owing to "stiff opposition from the stakeholders" and government wanted broader consultations and consensus.

Singh said these state governments felt that a switch over would increase the cost of coal, adversely impact value addition and development of industries in their areas and dilute their prerogative in the selection of leases.

Citing instances, he said the then BJP Chief Minister of Rajasthan Vasundhara Raje had written to him in April 2005 opposing competitive bidding.

The Prime Minister quoted Raje as saying then that the competitive bidding was against the spirit of the Sarkaria Commission recommendations.

Singh also named another BJP Chief Minister Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh) saying that the latter had written to him in June 2005 seeking continuation of the extant policy of coal block allocation.

He said the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister had requested that any change in coal policy be made after arriving at a consensus between the central government and the states.

"The state governments of West Bengal (Left) and Orissa (BJD-led) also wrote formally opposing a change to the system of competitive bidding," Singh said.

Highlights: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement on coal allocation

1. I wish to say that any allegation of impropriety is without any basis and unsupported by facts.

2. Once again I appeal to the Opposition to come back to the House to debate on these issues and let the country judge where the truth lies.

3. PM says he takes full responsibility for decisions of Coal Ministry whose charge was with him during the period assessed by CAG

4. The policy existed since 1993 and previous govternments also allocated blocks in precisely the manner that the CAG has now criticised

5. Oppn-ruled states like West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Rajasthan were strongly opposed to switchover to competitive bidding

6. Aggregating purported financial gains to private parties on basis of average production costs and sale price of CIL highly misleading

7. Initiated action to cancel coal block allocations where adequate follow up action not taken by allottees to commence production

8. CAG's findings flawed on multiple counts due action against wrongdoers, if any

9. CAG's findings flawed on multiple counts

10. CBI separately investigating allegations of malpractices; due action against wrongdoers, if any.

It seems Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram has given fresh ammunition to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by claiming 'zero loss' in the coal blocks allocation.

It is very unusual for a seasoned politician like Chidambaram to give such a statement. The way he has tried to justify the 'no loss' figure is nothing less than bizarre. Does our honourable Finance Minister want us to believe that there has been no loss to the exchequer, since the private companies haven't yet started mining at the coal mines that were allotted to them? It seems he is forgetting that in this entire episode, even if these companies haven't started extracting coal the mines are their property now. Secondly, it goes without saying that a huge amount of revenue could have been generated if the mines were auctioned, like in the case of 3G spectrum.

Chidambaram, along with Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and Law Minister Salman Khurshid, had said at a press conference on Friday that "if the coal is not mined and stays under mother earth, then where is the loss".

Well, the lawyer turned minister seems to be toeing his colleague Kapil Sibal's line who had made similar 'zero loss' claim when the 2G spectrum allocation scam was unearthed.

The BJP has lashed out and grabbed the golden opportunity with both hands to take on Chidambaram and the government. Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley has come out all guns blazing. He said: "The UPA tried to misguide then also with its zero loss theory… Finance Minister P Chidambaram hasn't learnt a lesson from his colleague Kapil Sibal's mistake."

"I don't think Chidambaram will be able to mislead the people, except himself," Jaitley said further.

The government's defence in saying that the allocation of coal mines were expedited to fast track economic growth and increase the power supply in the country also doesn't hold weight as mining has begun in only one of the over 50 mines allocated. So, Chidambaram's statement that "if coal is not mined and remains buried under mother earth, where is the loss" makes no sense.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its report, has said that lack of transparency in allocation of coal blocks to private players resulted in a notional loss of Rs.1.85 lakh crore (USD 37 billion) to the exchequer.

Above all, the CAG in its report also mentioned that the mines were distributed to persons who don't have any experience in coal mining, thus clearly indicating that there might be some beneficiaries who might be close to some influential people.

Surely, the government has a lot to answer.

Also, while the BJP is leaving no stone unturned in cornering the government, it should also understand it is doing no good to the nation by stalling the Parliament. The main opposition party needs to revisit its strategy and allow a debate in both the Houses of Parliament. Let Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spell out his government's defence and if still dissatisfied, the BJP can, with other political parties, demand Dr Singh's resignation or whatever they feel is right. This would not only take the issue to its logical conclusion but also help the people of this nation hear both sides of the story and decide who is correct.

With Parliament proceedings being stalled for a whole week and reports that the entire Monsoon Session could be jeopardized, all parties need to come together and chalk out a strategy to come out of the impasse so that pending legislations like the Grievance Redressal Bill, Whistle Blowers' Protection Bill and Lokpal Bill could become a reality.

Even as coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal has emerged as one of the UPA government's leading firefighters against the opposition onslaught on irregularities in coal block allocations, his own role in issuing some of these mines have come under the scanner.

BJP's Lok Sabha MP Hansraj Ahir, who has been at the forefront of exposing massive irregularities in coal block allocations, has written to the prime minister accusing Jaiswal of allocating coal blocks to 35 private companies without mandatory sanction by the screening committee.

More importantly, he has alleged that Jaiswal sanctioned coal blocks to three private companies — SKS Ispat &Power, CG Sponge Manufacturers Consortium Coalfield and API Ispat & Powertech — and a JV of Coal India in late 2011 without any auction, despite the new rules for auction of coal blocks coming into effect in 2010.

"I have written to the prime minister demanding an investigation into the allotments undertaken by Jaiswal which were against the law, and in some cases a clear case of economic crime," Ahir told TOI. "The PM must discharge his duty by ordering an immediate investigation into the minister's conduct," he added.

When contacted, Jaiswal denied the allegations. "The question does not arise. I have not allocated any blocks to anybody," he said. On the allegation that he allocated blocks to four companies without auction, the minister said it was "rubbish".

Ahir said the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill, which makes auction mandatory for allocating coal mines, was passed by Parliament in August 2010 and was notified in September in the official gazette. The BJP MP said Jaiswal allotted coal blocks to the three companies in October and November 2011, after the new rule had come into effect.

The attack on Jaiswal comes even as he has emerged among the leading defenders of UPA government in countering political attacks from the opposition and the backlash produced by CAG audit that has estimated a loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore because of irregularities in coal block allocations. On Friday, he had appeared alongside finance minister P Chidambaram and law minister Salman Khurshid to rubbish CAG findings, and to claim that there was zero loss to the exchequer.

On Saturday, Jaiswal stepped up his offensive, saying there was a conspiracy involving some "constitutional agencies and big personalities" to tarnish the image of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. "The prime minister is known for his exemplary honesty and integrity and those alleging a multi-crore coal mining scam are making baseless accusations and disrupting Parliament for petty politics," he said at a press conference.

With Ahir directly accusing Jaiswal of wrongdoing, it will further rupture the political stategy unleashed by UPA to defend itself against 'Coalgate'. More importantly, it raises questions if the PM will look at Jaiswal's role in the alleged allocations and take action against him.

Jaiswal took charge of the coal portfolio in 2009, and has since then allegedly allotted coal blocks to 35 private companies without necessary sanction from the screening committee. Ahir claimed that the ministry has not even held a meeting of the committee since 2008. But what is more serious is Ahir's allegations of a criminal act in allotting coal blocks to three private companies despite auction becoming mandatory.

Ahir, in his letter, has asked the PM to cancel all allotments undertaken by Jaiswal.

Democracy

                                                                                       
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For the use of the term "democracy" as referring to a system involving multiparty elections, representative government, and freedom of speech, see Liberal democracy. For other uses, see Democracy (disambiguation).
A woman casts her vote in the second round of the French presidential election of 2007
Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Democracy allows people to participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination. It originates from the Greek: δημοκρατία (dēmokratía) "rule of the people",[1] which was coined from δῆμος (dêmos) "people" and κράτος (kratos) "power", circa 400 BC, to denote the political systems then existing in Greek city-states, notably Athens. Other cultures since Greece have significantly contributed to the evolution of democracy such as Ancient Rome,[2] Europe,[2] and North and South America.[3]
A democratic government contrasts to forms of government where power is either held by one, as in a monarchy, or where power is held by a small number of individuals, as in an oligarchy or aristocracy. Nevertheless, these oppositions, inherited from Greek philosophy, are now ambiguous because contemporary governments have mixed democratic, oligarchic, and monarchic elements. Karl Popper defined democracy in contrast to dictatorship or tyranny, thus focusing on opportunities for the people to control their leaders and to oust them without the need for a revolution.[citation needed]
Several variants of democracy exist, but there are two basic forms, both of which concern how the whole body of citizens—the sovereign power in any variant of democracy—executes its will. One form of democracy is direct democracy, in which citizens have direct and active participation in the decision making of the government. In most modern democracies, the whole body of citizens remain the sovereign power but political power is exercised indirectly through elected representatives; this is called representative democracy. The concept of representative democracy arose largely from ideas and institutions that developed during the European Middle Ages and the Age of Enlightenment and in the American and French Revolutions.[4]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy


Following is the text of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Statement on the coal block allocation issue over which Parliament's business has been disrupted for the second week today.

1. I seek the indulgence of the House to make a statement on issues regarding coal block allocations which have been the subject of much discussion in the press and on which several Hon'ble members have also expressed concern.

2. The issues arise from a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General which has been tabled in Parliament and remitted to the Public Accounts Committee. CAG reports are normally discussed in detail in the Public Accounts Committee, when the Ministry concerned responds to the issues raised. The PAC then submits its report to the Speaker and that Report is then discussed in Parliament.

3. I seek your indulgence to depart from this established procedure because of the nature of the allegations that are being made and because I was holding the charge of Coal Minister for a part of the time covered by the report. I want to assure Hon¿ble Members that as the Minister in charge, I take full responsibility for the decisions of the Ministry. I wish to say that any allegations of impropriety are without basis and unsupported by the facts.

4. Allocation of coal blocks to private companies for captive use commenced in 1993, after the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973 was amended. This was done with the objective of attracting private investments in specified end uses. As the economy grew in size, the demand for coal also grew and it became evident that Coal India Ltd. alone would not be able to meet the growing demand.

5. Since 1993, allocation of captive coal blocks was being done on the basis of recommendations made by an inter-Ministerial Screening Committee which also had representatives of State governments. Taking into account the increasing number of applicants for coal block allocation, the Government, in 2003, evolved a consolidated set of guidelines to ensure transparency and consistency in allocation.

6. In the wake of rapidly growing demand for coal and captive coal blocks, it was the UPA-I Government which, for the first time, conceived the idea of making allocations through the competitive bidding route in June 2004.

7. The CAG report is critical of the allocations mainly on three counts. Firstly, it states that the Screening Committee did not follow a transparent and objective method while making recommendations for allocation of coal blocks.

8. Secondly, it observes that competitive bidding could have been introduced in 2006 by amending the administrative instructions in vogue instead of going through a prolonged legal examination of the issue which delayed the decision making process.

9. Finally, the report mentions that the delay in introduction of competitive bidding rendered the existing process beneficial to a large number of private companies. According to the assumptions and computations made by the CAG, there is a financial gain of about Rs 1.86 lakh crore to private parties.

10. The observations of the CAG are clearly disputable.

11. The policy of allocation of coal blocks to private parties, which the CAG has criticised, was not a new policy introduced by the UPA. The policy has existed since 1993 and previous Governments also allocated coal blocks in precisely the manner that the CAG has now criticised.

12. The UPA made improvements in the procedure in 2005 by inviting applications through open advertisements after providing details of the coal blocks on offer along with the guidelines and the conditions of allotment. These applications were examined and evaluated by a broad based Steering Committee with representatives from state governments, related ministries of the central government and the coal companies.

The applications were assessed on parameters such as the techno economic feasibility of the end use project, status of preparedness to set up the end use project, past track record in execution of projects, financial and technical capabilities of the applicant companies, recommendations of the state governments and the administrative ministry concerned.

13. Any administrative allocation procedure involves some judgement and in this case the judgement was that of the many participants in the Screening Committee acting collectively. There were then no allegations of impropriety in the functioning of the Committee.

14. The CAG says that competitive bidding could have been introduced in 2006 by amending the existing administrative instructions. This premise of the CAG is flawed.

15. The observation of the CAG that the process of competitive bidding could have been introduced by amending the administrative instructions is based on the opinion expressed by the Department of Legal Affairs in July and August 2006. However, the CAG's observation is based on a selective reading of the opinions given by the Department of Legal Affairs.

16. Initially, the Government had initiated a proposal to introduce competitive bidding by formulating appropriate rules. This matter was referred to the Department of Legal Affairs, which initially opined that amendment to the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act would be necessary for this purpose.

17. A meeting was convened in the PMO on 25 July, 2005 which was attended by representatives of coal and lignite bearing states. In the meeting, the representatives of state governments were opposed to the proposed switch over to competitive bidding.

It was further noted that the legislative changes that would be required for the proposed change would require considerable time and the process of allocation of coal blocks for captive mining could not be kept in abeyance for so long given the pressing demand for coal.

Therefore, it was decided in this meeting to continue with the allocation of coal blocks through the extant Screening Committee procedure till the new competitive bidding procedure became operational. This was a collective decision of the centre and the state governments concerned.

18. It was only in August 2006 that the Department of Legal Affairs opined that competitive bidding could be introduced through administrative instructions. However, the same Department also opined that legislative amendments would be required for placing the proposed process on a sound legal footing.

In a meeting held in September, 2006, Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs categorically opined that having regard to the nature and scope of the relevant legislation, it would be most appropriate to achieve the objective through amendment to the Mines & Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act.

19. In any case, in a democracy, it is difficult to accept the notion that a decision of the Government to seek legislative amendment to implement a change in policy should come for adverse audit scrutiny. The issue was contentious and the proposed change to competitive bidding required consensus building among various stakeholders with divergent views, which is inherent in the legislative process.

20. As stated above, major coal and lignite bearing states like West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Rajasthan that were ruled by opposition parties, were strongly opposed to a switch over to the process of competitive bidding as they felt that it would increase the cost of coal, adversely impact value addition and development of industries in their areas and would dilute their prerogative in the selection of lessees.

21. The then Chief Minister of Rajasthan Smt. Vasundhara Raje wrote to me in April 2005 opposing competitive bidding saying that it was against the spirit of the Sarkaria Commission recommendations.

Dr. Raman Singh, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh wrote to me in 2005 seeking continuation of the extant policy and requesting that any changes in coal policy be made after arriving at a consensus between the Central Government and the States. The State Governments of West Bengal and Orissa also wrote formally opposing a change to the system of competitive bidding.

22. Ministry of Power, too, felt that auctioning of coal could lead to enhanced cost of producing energy.

23. It is pertinent to mention that the Coal Mines Nationalisation (Amendment) Bill, 2000 to facilitate commercial mining by private companies was pending in the Parliament for a long time owing to stiff opposition from the stakeholders.

24. Despite the elaborate consultative process undertaken prior to introducing the amendment Bill in Parliament, the Standing Committee advised the Ministry of Coal to carry out another round of discussions with the States. This further demonstrates that the decision to seek broader consultation and consensus through a Parliamentary process was the right one.

25. The CAG report has criticised the Government for not implementing this decision speedily enough. In retrospect, I would readily agree that in a world where things can be done by fiat, we could have done it faster. But, given the complexities of the process of consensus building in our Parliamentary system, this is easier said than done.

26. Let me humbly submit that, even if we accept CAG's contention that benefits accrued to private companies, their computations can be questioned on a number of technical points. The CAG has computed financial gains to private parties as being the difference between the average sale price

and the production cost of CIL of the estimated extractable reserves of the allocated coal blocks.

Firstly, computation of extractable reserves based on averages would not be correct. Secondly, the cost of production of coal varies significantly from mine to mine even for CIL due to varying geo-mining conditions, method of extraction, surface features, number of settlements, availability of infrastructure etc.

Thirdly, CIL has been generally mining coal in areas with better infrastructure and more favourable mining conditions, whereas the coal blocks offered for captive mining are generally located in areas with more difficult geological conditions.

Fourthly, a part of the gains would in any case get appropriated by the government through taxation and under the MMDR Bill, presently being considered by the parliament, 26 per cent of the profits earned on coal mining operations would have to be made available for local area development.

Therefore, aggregating the purported financial gains to private parties merely on the basis of the average production costs and sale price of CIL could be highly misleading. Moreover, as the coal blocks were allocated to private companies only for captive purposes for specified end-uses, it would not be appropriate to link the allocated blocks to the price of coal set by CIL.

27. There are other important technical issues which will be gone into thoroughly in the Ministry of Coal's detailed response to the PAC and I do not propose to focus on them.

28. It is true that the private parties that were allocated captive coal blocks could not achieve their production targets. This could be partly due to cumbersome processes involved in getting statutory clearances, an issue we are addressing separately.

We have initiated action to cancel the allocations of allottees who did not take adequate follow-up action to commence production. Moreover, CBI is separately investigating the allegations of malpractices, on the basis of which due action will be taken against wrongdoers, if any.

29. Hon'ble members, from 1993 onwards, successive governments continued with the policy of allocation of coal blocks for captive use and did not treat such allocations as a revenue generating activity.

Let me reiterate that the idea of introducing auction was conceived for the first time by the UPA Government in the wake of increasing demand for captive blocks. Action was initiated to examine the idea in all its dimensions and the process culminated in Parliament approving the necessary legislative amendments in 2010. The law making process inevitably took time on account of several factors that I have outlined.

30. While the process of making legislative changes was in progress, the only alternative before the Government was to continue with the current system of allocations through the Screening Committee mechanism till the new system of auction based competitive bidding could be put in place.

Stopping the process of allocation would only have delayed the much needed expansion in the supply of coal. Although the coal produced thus far from the blocks allocated to the private sector is below the target, it is reasonable to expect that as clearances are speeded up, production will come into effect in the course of the Twelfth Plan.

Postponing the allocation of coal blocks until the new system was in place would have meant lower energy production, lower GDP growth and also lower revenues. It is unfortunate that the CAG has not taken these aspects into account.

31. Let me state emphatically that it has always been the intention of Government to augment production of coal by making available coal blocks for captive mining through transparent processes and guidelines which fully took into account the legitimate concerns of all stakeholders, including the State Governments.

The implicit suggestion of the CAG that the Government should have circumvented the legislative process through administrative instructions, over the registered objections of several state governments including those ruled by opposition parties, if implemented would have been undemocratic and contrary to the spirit of the functioning of our federal polity. The facts speak for themselves and show that the CAG's findings are flawed on multiple counts.

32. This, in short, is the background, the factual position and the rationale of government's actions. Now that the report of the CAG is before the House, appropriate action on the recommendations and observations contained in the report will follow through the established parliamentary procedures.

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