New Delhi: The Prime Minister endorsed the decision to allocate two coal blocks in Odisha to a company owned by industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, and if the CBI believes that was the result of a nefarious scheme, then the Prime Minister must be counted among the conspirators, said former Coal Secretary PC Parakh today.
"The PM cleared the decision... he is the final decision-maker," Mr Parakh said, a day after Mr Birla and he were accused of cheating and other criminal charges by the CBI.
The former bureaucrat pointed out that Dr Manmohan Singh held direct charge of the Coal Ministry when the contentious mining rights were conferred on Mr Birla's firm in 2005.
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said that Dr Singh has nothing to hide, and that the investigation and its details are "between the Supreme Court and the CBI."
Mr Parakh accepted that as the head of the committee that assigned coal licenses, he over-turned the original decision to allocate the coal blocks to a state-run firm in favour of Mr Birla's Hindalco, which makes aluminium. He said both the state-run firm and Hindalco were equally eligible. (Coal scam: FIR against industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla for cheating)
"Mr Birla told the PM that we are the first applicant and are equally eligible and competent and our request has been unfairly rejected. He also met me and made a similar representation. I found there was merit because they (Hindalco) were the first applicant," Mr Parakh said today, explaining his decision.
The CBI is investigating how and why the government assigned valuable coal licenses to private firms without an auction. For some of the years under scrutiny, the Prime Minister was also Coal Minister, making the scandal hyper-sensitive for the government.
Mr Parakh as Coal Secretary had lobbied for a transparent bidding process, a stand that is on record and was noted by the government's auditor. "Even when you do the right things, you are victimised," he said to NDTV today.