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Coalgate report rocks Parliament

NEW DELHI, Mar 22, 2012, DHNS: 1:34 IST
People carry baskets of coal scavenged illegally at an open-cast mine in the village of Bokapahari in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand where a community of coal scavengers live and work. File Photo/AP
The Opposition on Thursday created a ruckus in both Houses of Parliament over the Comptroller and Auditor General report which said a loss of Rs 10.67 lakh crore was caused to the exchequer due to allotment of coal blocks to 100 private and public sector companies without auction between 2004 and 2009.

Following the uproar, the CAG came with a clarification before the prime minister later in the day saying its observations reported in the media were “exceedingly misleading” as they were under discussion at a “very preliminary stage” and did not even constitute the “pre-final draft” of the expenditure watchdog.

“Pursuant to the clarification provided by the Coal Ministry in exit conferences held on February 9, 2012, and March 9, 2012, we have changed our thinking. In fact it is not even our case that the unintended benefit to the allocatee is an equivalent loss to the exchequer. The leak of the initial draft causes great embarrassment as the audit report is still under preparation. Such leakage causes very deep anguish,” the excerpts of the CAG letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which released by the PMO here, said.

The government, however, faced the heat in both Houses of Parliament over the issues. As soon as the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha assembled for the day, Opposition members began creating ruckus, raising the issue in both Houses.

In the Lok Sabha, Janata Dal (United) members demanded “immediate discussion” on the purported “draft report” of the CAG estimating huge loss to the exchequer due to allocation of 155 coal acreages to 100 companies between 2004 and 2009. JD(U) and BJP members subsequently stormed the well of the House, raising anti-government slogans.

Speaker Meira Kumar, who was trying to pacify the agitating members, adjourned the proceedings till 12 noon.

In the Rajya Sabha, BJP member Prakash Javadekar raised the issue and demanded suspension of the Question Hour to discuss the CAG’s observations, saying he had given notice to this effect.

Javadekar said the prime minister was in-charge of the coal portfolio when the alleged scam took place. Opposition members led by the BJP waved copies of the newspaper which had reported the observations made purportedly by the CAG in its “draft report”.

Chairman of the House M Hamid Ansari, however, refused to accept Javadekar’s demand for the suspension of the Question Hour, saying members cannot raise “unsubstantiated matters.”

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