Greenpeace criticises PM for defending multi-billion coal blocks allocation scam
New Delhi, Aug.21 (ANI): Activists of environment watchdog Greenpeace criticized the central government on Tuesday for defending the multi-billion dollar coal scam, as revealed by the country's apex audit body, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
Greenpeace activists took to the streets leading to the complex housing the ministries and unfolded a banner on Tuesday in New Delhi.
One of the members of Greenpeace, Arundati blamed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the scam, saying he should focus on the conservation of forests rather than defend wrong-doing.
"We have unfolded the banner here asking the Prime Minister to defend our forests and not the coal scam. The Prime Minister actually presided over the gifting away of the rich forests to private companies for their profit and the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) report has highlighted the staggering amount, the scale of that profit that the private sector made. Meanwhile, they have essentially been pointing their finger at the environment ministry, sort of pointing their finger at them saying they are the people who have actually been the primary obstacle to wrapping up power generation," said Arundati.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) accused the government on August 17 of allocating coal blocks, power projects, and land for Delhi's flagship airport at a fraction of market prices, potentially costing the exchequer tens of billions of dollars in lost revenues.
Singh has lurched from crisis to crisis since the same auditor uncovered corrupt practices two years ago in the sale of telecom licenses. The telecom sale may have cost the government up to 36 billion dollars.
Singh's office maintains the government was simply following established policy, and before the report was released, Singh denied there had been wrongdoing.
The activists demanded explanation and urged Singh to take immediate action.
"We hope that the Prime Minister is watching this and takes notice of this and actually acknowledges the fact that this is at the heart of the power crisis, not environment clearances. That's just to sidetrack people's attention. So, essentially the corruption scam is at the core of this power crisis," she added.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had sought to link Prime Minister Manmohan Singh personally to one report, which suggested private companies made windfall gains of about 33 billion dollars owing to the under-priced sale of coalfields between 2004 and 2009.
The opposition demanded Singh's resignation over the affair, dubbed "Coal Gate" by the media, since he was in charge of the coal ministry in 2006 when the sale was underway.
In a draft of its report, which was leaked earlier this year, the state auditor estimated that private companies' "windfall" gain from allocations had amounted to a much larger figure, 211 billion dollars.
India has for years allocated coal blocks directly to companies on the basis of recommendations by state governments. Since 2004 the government has said it will change to more transparent auctions, but had not done so even in February of this year, the report said.
The coal ministry disputed the auditor's calculations, which were based on average extractable reserves. The ministry said the many of the fields in question had difficult geological conditions and hence higher costs of production. (ANI)
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