The Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) day is never over. The ace sleuth agency was first tasked with finding where the missing R1.8 lakh crore went in the Coalgate case, this was lower than the CAG’s initial estimate of R10.8 lakh crore, but still a significant sum. Now, it appears some files themselves are missing—not content with 769 files already given to it, CBI wants more and one suggestion is that if the coal ministry cannot find the files, it can file an FIR with the police or, hold your breath, ask the CBI to probe the matter.
It is not true, though there are always cynics, that the government is not seized of the matter and is not taking action. A search committee, quite appropriately since it is searching, has been set up to look for the missing files. It is having about as much luck as Coal India Limited finding new coal reserves, but the Committee is not short of ideas. One, sadly shot down in the committee meetings, was that the accused firms be asked to provide the documents—often enough, it is true, the private sector has more access to government files, and they will even be properly flagged and cross-referenced, with an executive summary to boot. The other, based on an instruction from the coal ministry, is that the files in Coal India’s corporate office in the capital be place in a horizontal position. Huh? It’s actually quite simple, the files are placed one on top of the other, vertically. So, if a Coal India official wants to check what a file in the middle of the stack says, the whole stack can collapse, like the sides of a mine as any experienced miner will tell you. So, put them side by side, like books in a library, the ministry has ordained. Meanwhile, it comes as a shock that mountains of red tape couldn’t save the file from extinction. That’s the very least expected of it.