Parakh was an upright officer: Ex-Cabinet Secretary

As the controversy over coal block allocation to Hindalco takes twists and turns, former Cabinet Secretary B K Chaturvedi on Friday said the then Coal Secretary P C Parakh was an "upright" officer and he was retained in office till retirement because of that.

New Delhi: As the controversy over coal block allocation to Hindalco takes twists and turns, former Cabinet Secretary B K Chaturvedi on Friday said the then Coal Secretary P C Parakh was an "upright" officer and he was retained in office till retirement because of that.

His clean chit to Parakh came after a letter written by the then Coal Secretary surfaced in which he said that Coal Mafia "is not outside the Government".

Parakh, who has been named as an accused in a CBI FIR in the case relating to Hindalco, had then responded to allegations made by the then Minister Shibu Soren who wanted his transfer from the Ministry.

Chaturvedi, now a member of Planning Commission, told reporters today,"I consider Parakh a very upright officer."

On the letter written by Parakh, Chaturvedi said there were complaints against him and he was asked to offer his comments.

"For that, he offered all these comments (letter). So based on that, we didn't find any merit in the complaints against Parakh and rejected it...I do recall very well the people wanted to shift Mr Parakh and we saw to it that he remains in the seat till he retires," Chaturvedi said.

In the letter in 2005, Parakh had said,"it (Coal mafia) exists within the Ministry of Coal, Coal companies, trade unions, State administrations and local political leadership. There are no easy and shortcut solutions to the problem of Coal mafia in the current political and administrative milieu of the country.

As the letter made headlines, Parakh told reporters today, "the then Coal Minister Shibu Soren has made certain allegations against me. So in response, I had sent that letter to the then Cabinet Secretary B K Chaturvedi.

"When I said Coal industry is affected by the mafia, the intention was that a lot needs to done in Coal industry to bring transparency. Ministers were opposing these ideas. If you don't have transparency then you have all these kinds of problems."

Parakh had said in the letter, "dealing with coal mafia requires strong political commitment at Central and State government level and ability to effectively enforce law and order which does not exist."

About the presence of coal mafia in the government as alleged by Parakh and the subsequent action taken in this regard, Chaturvedi said,"In one or two cases, as he said, allegations came and we looked at it and found it was baseless. So we closed the papers and if I do recall that Coal mafia...Has been in existence in that area since donkey's years.

"Legally speaking CBI should look at legal aspect. As far as I am concerned, I consider Parakh as a very honest office. To me it appears that this is a case of bonafide decisions and there is no basis in this debate. But I do feel very strongly that honest bureaucrats should be protected..." he said.

In the letter to Chaturvedi on February 7, 2005, Soren had demanded transfer of Parakh alleging "procedural lapses" "insubordination" and not acting against Coal Mafia.

Terming himself as "gullible adivasi", Soren had said,"I have to reluctantly take a view that it may not be appropriate to continue any further with the present secretary (Parakh). I, hence, request the Prime Minister to finally consider to substitute the present incumbent with a suitable alternative"

Parakh responded to allegations saying he had no solutions to offer to the Minister apart from bringing about structural changes in the operations of coal industry for which ministers have shown great reluctance.

"I had heard that signatures of MPs can be obtained for a price on any piece of paper. I wish it was not true. However, my experience of working in the Ministry for last one year makes me believe that it is unfortunately true," Parakh had alleged.

Citing allegations levelled against him by the then MP Chandra Sekhar Dubey and Giridhar Yadav, Parakh wrote to Chaturvedi saying he was "hurt by these motivated complaints from MPs" and had decided to call it a day seeking retirement from the service.

"I am sorry to say that Members of Indian Parliament, who swear to uphold the Constitution of India, can with impunity indulge in blackmailing civil servants and senior executives of public sector companies to meet their personal ends. It is unfortunate that the country has no institutional mechanism to stop such misconduct on the part of law-makers," he said.

Recommending transparency in allocation of captive coal blocks, Parakh wrote "as regards allocation of captive coal blocks through competitive bidding, there are opinions in favour and against it.

"However, there can be no doubt that such a system will be far more transparent than any system that is based on subjective considerations. While both MoS and M(Coal) were strongly opposed to the idea, Prime Minister as Minister (Coal) had approved the proposal. I did not make any misrepresentation on the issue and deliberations of the meeting with stake holders were faithfully recorded".

On the issue of none-allocation of captive coal blocks pending approval of new policy of allocation based on competitive bidding, he said "I did not expect that this proposal, which will bring total transparency in allocation of coal blocks, would face so many hurdles.

"Even after the Prime Minister while holding charge as Minister (Coal) had approved the proposal, the cabinet note could not be processed as the file remained pending with the Minister till he second time demitted the office".

Parakh had alleged MoS and M (Coal) were always opposed to the e-auction proposal.

"The Prime Minister, during the short spell as Minister in-charge of Coal Ministry, approved a trial e-auction. Trial e-auction was conducted successfully and netted substantial additional revenue for BCCL," he said.

Parakh alleged that despite e-trial being successful, the Coal Minister kept the file pending and finally before resignation rejected the proposal without citing any reasons.