New Delhi: The `coalgate` row should be used to reverse the privatisation of natural and mineral resources in India, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said on Thursday.
CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat also blasted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying it was the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government which deregulated coal pricing and took steps to weaken the state-run Coal India Ltd (CIL).
In an article in the CPI-M mouthpiece People`s Democracy, Karat demanded a high level investigation to fix responsibility for the irregularities and corruption involved in the coal block policy.
"Those found guilty have to be prosecuted. All allocations which have been made irregularly have to be cancelled.
"Where windfall profits have been made, steps must be taken to recover the losses suffered by the government," the CPI-M leader said.
More important, "all those who wish to see an end to the loot of natural resources will demand that the coal allocations and mining be done through the public sector in the future", he said.
Karat`s comments follow a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on how controversial allocation of captive coal blocks to private companies could lead to the latter making windfall profits.
With India having the fourth largest coal reserves in the world, the CAG audit covers 2006-07 to 2010-11, besides the allocation of coal blocks by the coal ministry from 2004.
Karat alleged that both the NDA and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments undermined the CIL.
"The handing over of captive coal blocks picked up momentum after 2000", when the BJP ruled India, he said.
Both NDA and UPA governments, he said, argued that private players needed to be involved as CIL and its subsidiaries were unable to meet the growing demand for coal.
"Instead of taking steps to streamline CIL and set right the deficiencies and the corrupt and wasteful practices in the coal sector, both the Congress and the NDA governments worked to create a situation where the private sector would get entry and ascendancy in the coal sector.
"The captive mines policy had been actively utilised by the Ministry of Coal to weaken the CIL and prevent the expansion of public sector coal mining," he said.
Karat said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s statement in parliament was "a brazen attempt to defend an indefensible policy".
"The BJP`s hypocrisy in disrupting parliament demanding the prime minister`s resignation is breathtaking," he added.
"It had pioneered the captive coal block route. It had brought the coal privatisation bill in Parliament. The NDA government had de-regulated coal pricing and taken a series of steps to weaken the CIL.
"The BJP state governments in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have followed the same pattern in handing over coal blocks to fraudulent companies."
The CPI-M leader argued that competitive bidding may only lead to more problems, and demanded that the entire sector should be controlled by the public sector.
"Competitive bidding would favour the large private players; it would lead to private monopolies and cartels forming. Public utilities and state government-run corporations will not be able to compete.
"(It) will push up the cost of power generation and the resultant pressure on the regulated tariffs in the power sector."
"The coal block scandal should be an opportunity not only to identify the perpetrators of the `loot the resources` policy but to demand a reversal of the privatisation of natural and mineral resources."