It is 65 years since India attained independence and the nation has registered a series of ‘changes’, establishing its candidature for the next superpower. The days of misery are over, mafia raj no more, today the sophisticated crime of coal mines are just a material for thriller movies. Hang on. ‘Change’ not necessarily guarantees progress. The crime is still on; indeed it has taken more dynamic form. In the era of coalition, the government has chosen collusion with private firms and this has emerged as a more organized and institutionalized form of malfeasance.
With government already miffed by a series of allegations and searching for an escape, the office of the national auditor enlightens one new scandal, which happens to be the “mother of all scams – the Coalgate scam”. The CAG office reports a loss of 1.86 lakh crores to the Indian treasure. The revenue that could have been generated could be higher than reported as the CAG’s estimates are based on base-bidding prices.
Everyone knows “money does not grow on trees” but it could have been generated easily through coal auction but the government chose not to do so. Unmoved by the allegations, the ruling UPA government backs itself with a very ludicrous concept “the Zero Loss Theory” equating the number 1,860,000,000,000 to ZERO, calling there was no loss.
What’s great about the number 1,860,000,000,000?
Such big numbers generally find use in cosmic measurements and have no significance in normal human lives. But this big number has much to do much with economics and politics of the country.
In present economic crisis scenario when the nation’s confidence is down with increasing fiscal deficit, this number could have provided relief to the Indian economy. The amount Rs 1,860,000,000,000 is more than what country is spending on “Health and Education together”, more than the amount the government is spending on subsidy of petroleum products.
From public vantage point, the middle class could have some respite from rising prices as the government would never be forced to take so called bold decisions on economic front (hiking the diesel price and reducing cap on LPG cylinders).
Today India is the 3rd largest coal-producing country in the world but do not forget at the same time it ranks fourth in the list of coal importers. We are world’s fourth largest energy consumers and still 30% of country’s population has no access to electricity. Since the coal-fired plants account for almost 60% of India’s installed electricity capacity, this coal allotment to self-centered private firms is certainly going to a major hindrance in electricity generation in near future.
Money is something that can be recovered but not the damage to the environment. Most of the allotted coal reserves fall in dense forests of central India. These regions are home to many animals including endangered tigers. Coal mining in these areas will pose a serious threat to their lives.
The number also created a political havoc in the country. The principal opposition gathered some more ammunition to attack the government. They disrupted the entire monsoon season demanding PM’s resignation. The head of the government chose as usual chose to stay mum on the issue but the government decided to reciprocate. Now, the investigation will go back to 1993 – so the permits provided by their rival NDA, will come under scanner. Of the total, 81 percent of the total geological reserves given to private companies were given between 2006 and 2009. Statistics clearly show this is again a ‘Congress led scam’.
The allocation of coal blocks to private companies started in 1993, a Narasimha Rao’s government decision to help grow power, steel and cement plants whose needs could not be met by incompetent Coal India Limited. Indeed they grew substantially but not did the country. In a way this was done to remove the tag of a ‘socialist economy’. So far this story only reveals another dark side our capitalist economy. Alone the government and politicians’ relatives who benefitted from this can’t be held responsible, the entire ‘mixed economy’ structure where giant private firms play a crucial role in deciding government’s fate, together with former two are the pirates of coalmines.
The remark of ‘honorable’ home minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s remark that the coal issue will soon fade away from public memory as it happened in the Bofors case, may not be legitimate but logically it suits the present Indian society. YES we will forget. Hapless poor have no choice but to listen to these ‘generous’ pirates, middle class are easily being wooed, rich have no time, and ‘hypocrite patriotic’ youths have a ready-made excuse “politics- a bullshit”!! Independent India has managed to survive 65 years but this isn’t the way the architects of India’s independence had ever thought.
Coalgate has left another big question – it is not democracy that has maligned India isn’t that contemporary India that has maligned democracy?
About the Author: Aditya A Choudhary is a second year CSE student at Manipal Institute of Technology, Manipal and a nation’s enthusiast.
The opinion mentioned in the article is the authors own and does not reflect the opinion of ManipalBlog.com.