PAC's Odisha visit triggers controversy

The recent visit of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is scrutinising the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on irregularities in the coal sector, to the state has triggered a controversy.

The Congress, the main opposition party in the state, has described the important tour as a cover-up mission to protect the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government in the state which has figured in the CAG report.

What peeved state Congress leaders most was PAC chairman and BJP heavyweight Murli Manohar Joshi’s last-minute decision to skip the visit and depute senior BJD leader and MP Bhatruhari Mahtab to lead the parliamentary committee. The seven-member PAC team arrived here on Friday evening and had a review meeting with the state government officials as well as senior officials of the Mahanadi Coalfields Limited, a subsidiary of central government PSU, Coal India.

“Joshi’s decision to skip the tour in the last minute has once again confirmed the increasing nexus between the BJD and the BJP. His decision to depute Mahtab to lead the PAC team has also put a question mark on the intension of the committee. How can a parliamentary committee headed by a BJD member can do a proper investigation on the allegations against the BJD government in the state? ” questioned PCC chief Niranjan Patnaik.

Patnaik’s party colleague and senior state Congress leader Kailash Achary went one step further and demanded that Joshi should explain why he decided to skip the tour in the last minute and deputed Mahtab in his place. “He owes an explanation to the people of Odisha. The PAC team seemed to have come to the state on a pleasure trip,” he said.

What has angered the state Congress leaders further is a statement made by Mahtab soon after meeting the state government and MCL officials, squarely blaming the Central government for irregularities in the allotment of coal blocks in Odisha and in the process virtually giving a clean chit to the state government. “The Central government allotted the coal blocks in a highly arbitrary manner,” he told reporters here.

The CAG had reportedly questioned the manner in which some of the coal blocks were allotted in Odisha on the recommendation of the state government. A couple of them are already under the scanner of the CBI which is probing into the multi-crore coal scam. In fact, the premier investigating agency recently raided the house and office of a businessman in the state in connection with the scam.

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