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    November 2013

Uproar over Hindalco FIR: Time for a reality check?   

Editor-Post

The hullabaloo by India Inc and the political class over the registration of a case against industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla in the coalgate scam, which has caused the nation a loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore, is beyond comprehension. If such interference in its probe continues, it won’t be long before the CBI is deemed a non-credible agency, an agency that is largely being politically manipulated and used and abused. Our Cover Story explores the issue and raises some soul-searching questions. With such industry and political interference in its probe, can the CBI ever function fearlessly and conduct transparent investigation while tackling high-profile cases? Will the country’s premier investigating agency be able to insulate itself from the pressure tactics from the corporate leaders and those in the corridors of power? Will the probe agency as well as our representatives in Parliament be able to restore our faith in the judicial system?  Can we, the people, ever say that no person is above law?  We think the CBI should be made independent like the Comptroller and Auditor-General and the Election Commission. That will go a long way in preventing the premier investigative agency from being treated like a doormat by politicians and industrialists also in this issue, we have an exclusive interview of former Union Coal Secretary Prakash Chandra Parakh, who is under CBI scanner for his alleged wrongdoings in the allocation of a coal mine block to Hindalco in Odisha. In his conversation with Bureaucracy Today, Parakh for the first time makes an attempt to justify the “public interest” he had in his mind while making the decision to reverse the allocation of the coal block to Neyveli Lignite Corporation, a PSU, in favour of Hindalco.  The CBI, probing the coalgate scam, is examining the "public interest" which Patnaik had referred to in his 2005 letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was the then Coal Minister, following which the Coal Ministry reversed its original decision on the allocation. India’s largest profit-making PSU, the ONGC, on the directions of the Gujarat High Court is facing a CVC probe into allegations that some top-drawer officers of the company had misused their official position in the collection of Rs 3.25 crore donations from 49 contractor companies in the guise of charity. Bureaucracy Today investigates the issue and raises pertinent questions on the accountability and integrity of the PSU management and loopholes in the existing guidelines for public servants. It is a debatable issue whether charity work done by NGOs associated with PSUs in collaboration with  company contractors is illegal or such occasions are viewed by the contractors as an opportunity to avail themselves of goodwill or to avoid hassles in the ongoing contracts. Also, it is a point to ponder whether an individual can take advantage of lack of specific CVC guidelines for family members of employees of PSUs to settle personal scores.   

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