(EnergyAsia, October 22 2013, Tuesday) — More than a year after federal investigators began looking into India’s largest corruption scandal the last decade, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remains firmly in power despite attempts to tie him to the loss of billions of dollars from the mis-allocation of the country’s coal mining concessions.
Last week, Mr Manmohan Singh declared he was “satisfied” with the system that awarded domestic coal blocks to companies which were later found to have little or no experience to develop the deposits for use by power companies.
The scandal came to light when an auditor’s report early last year revealed that the government had been awarding coal-mining concessions to companies without competitive bidding. In many instances, the report said the concessions were almost given away or sold cheaply, costing the national treasury more than US$33 billion in lost revenue.
After launching investigations in September last year, the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) last week charged three companies, including one controlled by industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, in connection with the “coal-gate” scandal.
The Prime Minister’s Office has denied interfering with CBI’s work despite complaints that attempts had been to alter records and destroy evidence over the course of the bureau’s 13-month investigations.
Opposition parties, led by the BJP, have been calling for Mr Manmohan’s resignation since last year as he was the coal minister when the allocation scandal allegedly took place between 2004 and 2009. His supporters have sought to cast doubts on the findings of the auditor’s report, which have become crucial in the battle to reform India’s failing power sector.
Critics said India’s failure to develop its large domestic coal reserves has contributed to its worsening electricity supply crisis. While dependent on coal to generate more than 70% of its electricity, India has been unable to meet its rising demand for the fuel.