Former coal secretary PC Parakh has said that when he complained to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2005 about the rude behaviour of Members of Parliament (MPs) and threatened to resign, the latter told him he, too, was faced with similar incidents.
“The Prime Minister expressed anguish and stated that he faced similar problems every day. But it would not be in the national interest if he was to offer his resignation on every such issue,” he said.
Parakh has been named in an FIR by the Central Bureau of Investigation for allotment of a coal block to Aditya Birla Group company, Hindalco, during his tenure as coal secretary. In his forthcoming book, ‘Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and other truths’, to be released on Monday, Parakh has denied all the charges and also reiterated that Singh did not put any pressure on him or other officers to change rules to favour any party.
But at the same time in events like where MPs blocked reforms in the sector, Singh offered no solution but asked him to continue. “It became clear to me there was little chance of lasting reform in the coal sector with the limitations within which the Prime Minister functioned,” he added.
He also said that while Singh planned several initiatives for the coal sector, he was unable to override ministers like Shibu Soren. A chairman and managing director of Coal India, whom the Prime Minister favoured, was appointed to the post only after Soren resigned from the coal ministry. “I doubt if this would have been possible if Soren was minister.”
About the CBI charges, Parakh denies them strongly but provides no new evidence about them. He claims that the agency’s director Ranjit Sinha has allegedly abused office to “accuse” Kumar Mangalam Birla and Parakh. “I can say ... that the CBI is either outright incompetent or playing a deeper game, which I do not understand,” he said.
Parakh was coal secretary from April 2004 to December 2005. Recalling his interactions with the agency before the registration of a FIR against him and Birla last year, he said inspector-level officers were deputed to argue with him why his recommendation for Talabira-II coal block differed from that of the inter-ministerial screening committee.
He said that he stood by his decision to do so “just as allocation of other blocks benefited hundreds of other private firms”.
Alleging that the CBI has based its case against him on questionable premises, Parakh, in his book, posed few queries for Sinha asking how his agency conclude that Talabira II was reserved for public sector companies. If it was so, then how did Hindalco apply for it and the then screening committee considered it.
“Did the CBI publicise this false information merely to malign my image?” he asked.