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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 12, March 14, 2015

CBI Court Summons Manmohan Singh

Saturday 14 March 2015, by SC


As we go to press news has come that Congress leaders, with party President Sonia Gandhi in the foreground, marched this morning from the Akbar Road central headquarters of the Congress to former PM Manmohan Singh’s residence in Lutyens’ Delhi in a demonstrative show of solidarity with the erstwhile head of the Union Government who was yesterday summoned by a special CBI court as an accused in a case of alleged illegal allocation of a coal block to Kumar Mangalam Birla’s Hindalco at the cost of the public sector Neyveli Lignite Corporation. Dr Singh has been directed to appear before the court on April 8 alongwith, inter alia, K.M. Birla, former Coal Secretary P.C. Parakh, and two senior officials of Hindalco.

According the special CBI judge, Bharat Parashar, who found prima facie “incriminating circumstance” against Dr Singh, there was a “conscious effort” on the latter’s part to “somehow accommodate” Hindalco in the 2005 allocation of the Talabira-II coal block in Odisha; Dr Singh, as is well known, held the coal portfolio at that time.

Parashar pointed out that Dr Singh “allowed” the matter pertaining to the allocation of the Talabira-II coal block to be “reopened” in spite of the fact that “he himself had permitted” the approval of the minutes of the 25th screening committee which recommended the allocation of the block to the Neyveli Lignite Corporation Ltd (NLC). “Repeated reminders from the PMO”, written as well as telephonic, to the Coal Ministry to “expeditiously” process the matter in view of the letters received from K.M. Birla, also “prima facie indicate the extra undue interest” shown by the PMO, he observed.

The special CBI judge further opined that the “claim of the PMO” that the Hindalco case was revisited due to the strong recommendation in favour of the latter by the Odisha CM was “clearly an eyewash and a lame excuse”.

He used quite strong words to conclude: “It is prima facie clear that a well-planned conspiracy was hatched to accommodate Hindalco in Talabira-II coal block so as to extend wrongful gain to Hindalco while at the same time causing wrongful loss not only to the Government of India...., custodian of the nationlised natural resources, ... but also to NLC.”

The Congress party has, as expected, sprung to Dr Singh’s defence highlighting his personal integrity and probity in public life. The corporate-driven media too has followed suit. Despite the fact that the matter is still in court and a final judgement on the case has yet to be pronounced, The Times of India has averred: “Singh may have presided over bad policy, but that doesn’t ipso facto amount to corruption.”

None is in any way questioning Dr Singh’s personal integrity or non-corruptibility. But there is every reason to believe that the policies he pursued since 1991 opened the floodgates of neo-liberalism thereby providing massive concessions to the private corporates while the public sector was not just made to fend for itself, but also systematically marginalised with a view to ultimately destroying it. This struck at the roots of the Nehruvian strategy of self-reliance and cohesive development beyond personal aggran-disement at the cost of the interests of the bulk of our populace. What was sought to be done during the tenure of the UPA-II Government in particular in the coal sector was directed against the very objectives of coal nationalisation effected in 1972.

Whereas petty politics between the two main political parties of the country should not be allowed to blur one’s vision in such matters, the aforemen-tioned issues too cannot be brushed under the carpet. Any dispassionate analysis of the CBI court summoning Dr Manmohan Singh cannot possibly ignore these—they need to be discussed in depth in the national interest.

March 12 S.C.