Once upon a time selling coal blackened hands of the handlers. Times have changed. Now it is the top leaders of the Congress that have blackened their hands by selling coal mines in shady deals. It is known as the COALGATE or the Coal Scam. It is a kind of stage play where the Truth is stranger than fiction. Believe it or not, the dramatis personae (the characters of the play) of this stage play are a gentleman hailing from Kanpur presently handling the Coal Ministry and, of course, the hero is the PMO, an euphemism for Prime Minister. Like any battle situation the script of the sensational play is changed every day. The culprits of the biggest scam involving 30 billion rupees make clumsy attempts to cover their tracks and in the bargain burn their fingers.
HONEST CHANGED INTO DISHONEST
There is a gentleman born in Pakistan Punjab but migrated to India on partition with parents, studied hard under street lamp posts and made it big as an economist. Above all he earned the reputation of being an honest man both as a technocrat and later as the Finance Minister under Prime Minister Narsimha Rao. By quirk of events he was catapulted to the most thorny seat of Prime Minister but wore no thorny crown as the decisions made in his name were thought of and executed elsewhere. Thus after the East India rule in Bengal in the eighteenth century diarchy made a reappearance in New Delhi in the twenty first century. India suffered from this malady of two seats of power but who cared.
The man named Manmohan Singh, the de-jure Prime Minister of India (the word de facto omitted deliberately) maintained his image of honesty to a large extent for some time. Lo and behold! The COALGATE burst into scam that made news both nationally and internationally. As ill luck would have it it was the Prime Minister himself who was handling the portfolio of coal. It is an old saying in Hindi “ koele ki dalali mein munh kala” and how true it is in the present COALGATE where not only the present coal minister but the Prime Minister’s name is sullied with slander. Imagine the amount of money involved in the scam is: 30 billion rupees. That large amount of money could not have been digested by one man. Obviously the accusing fingers point towards top leadership of the party. But the accusation will hold water only after a full- fledged and impartial investigation is done and a judicial finding is given. The public perception is that the big scam has blackened the face of all those who matter in the government and in the party.
The Central Bureau of Investigation was assigned the task of investigating the coal scam under the active monitoring of the Supreme Court. Generally speaking the CBI is faulted for selective investigation zeroing on the opposition leaders and turning a Nelson’s eye to corruption in high places where the ruling party is involved. No wonder the Apex Court gave the CBI a new nickname;” Caged Parrot”. The CBI has not yet acted differently to live down that image. However, now the Director of CBI, Shri Ranjit Sinha, has gone on record to say that the coal ministry is not handing over the files demanded by the CBI to proceed with the investigation in depth. Fearing the fuming of and castigation by the Supreme Court, the Coal Ministry, nodal agency for all matters pertaining to allotment of coal mines and getting involved in the mega scam, has come out with a novel but flimsy excuse for not handing over the relevant files to the CBI. All the relevant files that could reveal the mens rea (latin for “guilty mind”) and modus operandi of the PMO and the coal minister have gone missing. In another silly excuse a senior officer explained that the files numbering one hundred thirty plus are kept in steel boxes kept vertically and not horizontally, making their opening almost impossible. Indeed no intelligent person in his senses will buy this explanation.
NEEDLE OF SUSPICION
Who is interested in denying access to these files by the investigating agency? Obviously those ministers and officers, not excluding the PMO, who have something to hide lest their culpability in the mega coal scam comes to light and that may lead to their prosecution. The road from the courtroom to the central jail is a short one. The evidence for prosecution may be overwhelming. Therefore, the best course of action open to suspected culprits was to hide and eventually destroy the documentary evidence. This is precisely what the conspirators who loot the nation’s wealth and stash the money in foreign banks have done.
Where do the investigators go from here? It is kind of hard to say. It depends on the course of action taken by the exasperated judges who are bound to take a dim view of what is going on in the Government of India. Apparently all is not well when Honesty is at a discount and Dishonesty is the path open to one and all – the high and mighty as well as the lowly Aam Aadami, the citizens of India that is Bharat.
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