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Mainstream, VOL LI No 44, October 19, 2013

UPA-II Government Cornered, Exposed — Yet Again

Monday 21 October 2013, by SC

EDITORIAL

The registering of an FIR against industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla and his group of companies, Hindalco, by the CBI on October 15 for alleged irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks has really sent shockwaves across the corporate world. It has once again put the spotlight on Dr Manmohan Singh as erstwhile Coal Secretary P.C Parakh, also placed in the same category as Birla, has alleged that the allocation, having been approved by the PM, the CBI should have made him the “accused number one”. The BJP has been quick to seize the opportunity to voice afresh its demand that Dr Singh step down from the post of head of government as he too is an accused in the entire affair. At the other end, some Ministers of the Union Government have expressed their anxiety that the CBI’s action against the noted businessman will severely dent business and investor confidence. Some of them have also directed the bureaucrats and officials not to speak to media on the issue.

The CBI on its part claims to have found an unaccounted-for sum of Rs 25 crores during its search at the Hindalco office in New Delhi. It further discosed about the recovery of several incriminating documents.

In its FIR, the CBI said Birla on behalf of the Hindalco Industries Limited had requested for allocation of Talabira II coal block in May and June 2005 and the request letters were forwarded to the Ministry of Coal. The investigating agency then pointed out that Birla met Parakh, the then Coal Secretary, in July 2005 with the same request and thereafter Parakh, changing his original stand in the matter (he was the Chairman of the 25th Screening Committee for coal block allocations), “by abusing his official position as a public servant, recommended the allocation of Talabira II alongwith Talabira III coal block to Hindalco, alongwith other two companies without any valid basis or change in circumstances and with the sole intention to show undue favours to Hindalco”.

While the corporate lobby and Union Ministers have been prompt to defend Birla for his uprightness, the seriousness of the CBI charge cannot be dismissed offhand.

In this whole affair, the PM’s role has once again come under scrutiny. Regardless of what the BJP leaders are saying, the most cogent articulation of the Opposition’s position has come from CPI’s veteran MP Gurudas Dasgupta. He explained that the issue was not of financial corruption on the part of the PM, but one of grave dereliction of duty by Dr Manmohan Singh, something which cannot be wished away; hence the PM must be at least questioned by the CBI.

The UPA II dispensation has definitely suffered a blow and been cornered once again by this striking development. The CBI was for long accused of being the handmaiden of the government in office. But now when it is trying to uncover the truth, howsoever bitter, it is being sought to be reined in. In this context JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav’s statement assumes importance. “Let the CBI be allowed to do its job,” he has averred.

Meanwhile, the Union Government’s decision not to sign the first-ever UN global resolution on early and forced marriage of children has exposed the UPA II dispensation’s lip-service to defend women and safguard their rights.

As the NFIW General Secretary Annie Raja said, the refusal to sign the UN resolution “shows that the concerns expressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the safety and protection of women after the December 16, 2012 incident lacks sincerity”.

These have further cornered the government at the Centre while unmasking its opportunist face before the public at large.

October 17 S.C.

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