No reason to suspect I am being targeted, says PC Parakh, former Coal Secretary

“Had it not been for me proposing open bidding for coal blocks, the government auditor would not have initiated work, and no one would have known how blocks were allotted,” says PC Parakh, author of Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and Other Truths.

The book portrays the Prime Minister in a poor light, as a leader unable to control his Coal Ministers.

In a conversation with Business Line, Parakh, a former Secretary to the Coal Ministry, says he has nothing to hide. Most of the documents for the book were sourced through the Right to Information.

The Government, he says, was aware of the book, as was the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). “Had my book come out earlier, Congress would have termed it something else; today, it says it is sponsored by Narendra Modi,” says Parakh.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

You have been critical of the CBI. Do you see any vested interest or are you being targeted?

The CBI is definitely not professional. It is an organisation of police officers. If any institution is given unbridled powers, they (the powers) are likely to get misused. The entire democratic process works on checks and balances. Autonomy cannot amount to unbridled powers. There is no doubt that the political system as well as the bureaucratic system have abused the system.

There is no reason for me to suspect that anybody is targeting me. All I say is that if the CBI thinks Kumar Mangalam Birla or I have conspired, then what makes them think that the prime minister is not involved?

Where do you think the PMO erred (in dealing with reforms in the coal sector)?

The PM has been very clear that the Government depended on the Left parties’ support then.

The Left was opposed to the idea of privatisation in coal. The PM must have made his own assessment as to how much reforms can be carried forward. Even the unions of Coal India were opposed (to reforms).

What was the role of the screening committee? When defending itself, the Government said that it went by the proposals of the committee… 

The screening committee is the creation of the Government. It is essentially a consultative committee where all the stakeholders come together, but the responsibility for decisions rested with the Coal Minister. The committee could only recommend. In Hindalco’s case, the PM gave his consent.

What was the provocation for the book?

I was writing on my experiences of working with the government soon after I retired. I kept penning but didn’t know what to focus on. In 2007, the Administrative Reforms Commission asked me to prepare a discussion paper on the relationship between the civil services and elected representatives. The paper never came out. From that work I picked up all those incidents that touched upon the aspects of this relationship. I had finished writing up to my tenure in the Coal Ministry, but then came the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report (popularly termed Coalgate).

The auditor was unfairly criticised for doing its job. So, I decided to add a chapter on the CAG report. Just when that was done came the FIR against me and I decided to add another chapter.

But the timing of the book is being questioned. And how much is the real picture?

I have been writing since 2006. It is a coincidence that it got released two days after Sanjaya Baru’s book.

My book conveys a message to younger members of the civil services as to the kind of problems they may face in their career.

In our country, there is no accountability by political executives at any level.

Politicians feel that the election every five years decides their accountability. But five years are not enough. We need a system that can fix the accountability for everyone.

Have you met the Prime Minister recently?

My last meeting with the PM was after I retired.

(This article was published on April 16, 2014)
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