That Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was unable to fight vested interests in his government to push coal reforms is well known, even tragic, given how the BJP had left behind a Bill, in the Rajya Sabha, to open up coal mining to the private sector without restriction of captive useits another matter that, in recent years, the party itself has had second thoughts and wants to restrict private mining to captive users. The CAGs Coalgate report detailed how the prime minister wanted to open up the sector years before Coalgate took place, but allowed powerful political allies to over-rule him. Former coal secretary PC Parakhs book, released Monday, fleshes this out. Like the CAG report, Parakh talks of how, in August 2004, the prime ministerwho held the coal portfolio at that timeagreed with the proposal to replace the screening committee allotment of captive coal blocks with the bidding route, and a Cabinet note was prepared. Yet, based on a note written by the junior coal minister, the Prime Ministers Office ended up writing a note explaining why open bidding was a bad ideathere would be no Coalgate had the PM asserted himself.
Parakh, however, never gave up, and that is why his book should be read by serving, and aspiring, bureaucrats. The junior minister kept blocking Parakhs proposal, and at a later date, the prime minister handed back the ministry to Shibu Soren who also killed the auction proposal. Yet, when the PM took charge again in March 2005, Parakh revived his proposal. He still didnt succeed due to vested interests, but in other cases he did. When a CMD had to be appointed for Coal Indiathe previous one had been suspended on corruption chargesand the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) had given its recommendations, the minister, as well as the junior minister, were not in favour of what PESB had recommended. So, a CVC report was asked for on allegations of corruption against the candidate; when the CVC said there was nothing to the allegations, the junior minister was in favour of ignoring the CVCs advicewith Soren agreeing, the matter appeared dead. Yet, after failing to persuade the ministers, Parakh wrote to the Department of Personnel and Training asking for the matter to be placed before the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC). When asked for an explanation, Parakh pointed out that, under the law, only the ACC had the right