Excerpts: Bribes and blackmail of ministers in UPA2

Last Updated: Sun, Apr 13, 2014 02:25 hrs

It’s a summer of political books it appears. Former media adviser to Manmohan Singh, Sanjaya Baru’s book, The Accidental Prime Minister – The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh, has generated buzz with details of the ups and downs between Singh and Sonia Gandhi.

Now another book is slated for release on 14 April in Delhi – Crusader or Conspirator? – Coalgate and Other Truths. This is on the coal scam and other work experiences of PC Parakh, who retired as coal secretary in UPA2 and whom the CBI named in an FIR on the case.

Parakh’s book is even more powerful than Baru’s because it offers firsthand accounts of what transpired in the coal ministry. Parakh also details his stint in Andhra Pradesh, where he began his 36-year-long career in the civil service.

There are eye-popping specifics on how bigwigs conducted themselves. You can get a sense of former Andhra Pradesh chief ministers NT Rama Rao and Chandrababu Naidu, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, former coal ministers Shibu Soren and Dasari Narayana Rao, BJP MP Dharmendra Pradhan and others.

More than anything else Parakh’s book tracks the descent of the polity in India. The incredible stress of corruption comes through crisp and lucid.

Here are excerpts from the book, which offer stunning details of blackmail and of bribes demanded by ministers in the UPA2 government – especially Dasari Narayana Rao who was minister of state for coal. There is far more in the book, all of which seems to confirm most allegations of widespread corruption in the UPA2 tenure.

The book is published by Delhi-based Manas Publications and comes at Rs 595 for the hardbound edition.

“When Mr. Karia Munda was the Minister of Coal, the then chair of Coal India, Mr. N.K. Sharma, was kept under suspension following complaints of irregularities in the procurement of capital equipment and explosives for Coal India. By the time I joined the ministry, Mr. Sharma was under suspension for about nine months and Mr. Shashi Kumar, Director (Marketing), was holding additional charge.

“There was serious coal shortage and almost all power plants had reached critical stock levels (less than 15 days requirement). Quite a few had reached super critical levels (less than 7 days requirement). Coal India was hampered because it did not have a full-time CMD.

“To appoint a full-time CMD, a proposal to create a supernumerary post in the rank of CMD was sent to the Department of Personnel & Training (DOPT) – with the approval of Ms. Mamata Banerjee. With the change in government, the DOPT wanted fresh approval from the new minister. I briefed Mr. Soren about the proposal. Communication was sent to the DOPT for early creation of the supernumerary post, after Mr. Soren approved of it.

“Soon after, Mr. Soren received a letter from Mr. Tek Lal Mahto, MP, seeking the reinstatement of Mr. Sharma.  Now Mr. Soren wanted to reinstate Mr. Sharma by recalling the proposal from the DOPT, while an inquiry against him was still pending. I advised Mr. Soren that such a flip-flop may damage his credibility. He agreed with my suggestion.

“But later, in a complaint to the Prime Minister, he alleged that I had obtained his signature on the file by misleading him. I was told that a fat sum was offered to Mr. Soren on behalf of Mr. Sharma.

“Finally, after the Prime Minister took charge of the ministry, the government approved the creation of a supernumerary post in the grade of CMD-. Interviews for the post were held on 15 September. The Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) recommended two officers in order of merit, the first being acting CMD Mr. Shashi Kumar.

“Ever since they joined, Mr. Soren and Mr. Dasari Narayana Rao had pestered Mr. Kumar for monthly payments. Mr. Kumar resisted. Just before the interview, an approach was made to Mr. Kumar on behalf of the MoS. He wanted a onetime payment of ₹50 lakh and a monthly payment of ₹10 lakh to appoint Mr. Kumar as the regular CMD. Mr. Shashi Kumar refused to pay."

Mr. Rao initiates action against Mr. Kumar

“After the mandatory vigilance clearance from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the file on Mr. Kumar’s appointment was submitted to Mr. Rao on 15 October 2004. Mr. Rao returned the file on 29 October 2004, seeking investigation against Mr. Kumar for his role in the procurement of explosives for Coal India. This was what Mr. N. K. Sharma was under suspension for."

PESB and CVC recommendations are rejected

“Following the doubts expressed by the MoS on the integrity of Mr. Kumar, a further report was sought from the Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) of Coal India. The CVC was again consulted on Mr. Kumar’s vigilance clearance. The CVC said there was no case against Mr. Kumar, after which the file was resubmitted on 24 December 2004 for his appointment as CMD.

“By this time Mr. Soren, was re-inducted as Minister of Coal. The private secretaries of the two ministers met Mr. Kumar over dinner to convince him to agree to the ministers’ demands. At the minimum, they suggested that Mr. Kumar become a channelising agent for funds to be received from CMDs of CIL subsidiaries.

“They told Mr. Kumar that all past Coal India CMDs had paid ministers, and there was nothing special about Mr. Kumar. One again, Mr. Kumar refused to pay.

“The MoS said he was constrained to note that the CVC’s advice in the matter is not acceptable and the matter needed to be processed further. He thus overlooked the PESB recommendations on Mr. Kumar. Mr. Soren approved the noting of the MoS.

“I again submitted the file on Mr. Kumar after further clarification of all issues the MoS raised. I told the ministers that the PESB is an independent institution created to select directors and CMDs of PSUs. The CVC is the highest authority in the country on vigilance matters of public servants. Based on available records, there was no valid reason to reject the recommendations of the PESB and the CVC regarding Mr. Kumar.

“I, therefore, requested the ministers to reconsider the matter. The MoS reiterated his views and recommended the rejection of Mr. Kumar. Mr. Soren approved this recommendation as the cabinet minister.

“I had failed to persuade the ministers to see reason. I had no option but to send the entire record with my opinion, and the opinion of the ministers, to the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) so they could place the matter before the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) for a final decision. "

Ministers call for my explanation

“The Ministers took serious umbrage to my referring the case to the ACC. I was called the next day to explain why the second name in the panel was not proposed for consideration. I was asked how the proposal could be sent to the DOPT when the minister had already rejected the PESB’s recommendation.

“The ministers wanted the proposal of the second person on the panel to be processed so that they could bargain with him. I had to remind the ministers that, according to the Business Rules of the Government of India, only the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet was empowered to accept or reject PESB recommendations.

“The Minister of Coal was only one member of the committee. The other members of the committee, i.e., the home minister and the Prime Minister also have to consider the matter before the PESB recommendation could be rejected. The secretary of a department is responsible for compliance with Business Rules.

“Therefore, I was bound by duty to send the entire record for the consideration of the other members of the ACC, although the Minister of Coal did not agree with the PESB recommendations." 

ACC approves the appointment of Mr. Kumar

“Meanwhile, Mr. Soren resigned again to take over as the Chief Minister of Jharkhand. The Prime Minister then approved the appointment of Mr. Shashi Kumar as Coal India CMD, overruling the opinion of Mr. Rao and Mr. Soren. The Prime Minister could do so because Mr. Soren had resigned. I doubt if this would have been possible if Mr. Soren was minister.
“The ministers constantly put pressure on Mr. Shashi Kumar. At times, they humiliated and intimidated him for not meeting their demands. Mr. Kumar exhibited exemplary courage and fortitude, rare in Coal India executives, in resisting the illicit demands of the ministers. He was willing to forgo his legitimate claim to the position of CMD, CIL, rather than succumb to their blackmail.

“This was not an isolated instance of demands made by ministers to approve appointments at the board level in coal PSUs. There were many officers in CIL subsidiaries who were more than willing to make monetary and other contributions and enjoy ministerial protection for their misdeeds.

“I understand that this is a common practice in central PSUs and also in a few government departments. I was therefore, not surprised when the nephew of Mr. Pawan Bansal, the then Minister of Railways, was caught red-handed accepting a bribe for the appointment of Mr. Mahesh Kumar as Member, Railway Board.
“There are many public relations agencies of industrial houses in the country that are willing to make payments on behalf of incumbent officers, in return for favours to be extracted after they are appointed.

“How can chiefs of central public sector undertakings and heads of the government departments control corruption in their organisations if they have bribe to ministers for their appointments? This rot at the top level of the political executive is a major cause of institutionalised corruption in the country.

“It has become so brazen that the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Kiran Kumar Reddy, while addressing probationers of the All India and Central Services recently, had no qualms in advising them not to worry about political corruption as the money made by politicians is returned to the people during elections.

“What a fall in the political standards of the country.”

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Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi.

Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at vijsimha@gmail.com.

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