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Mystery of missing files

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That some important files pertaining to the Coalgate scam have gone missing from Central government offices will raise eyebrows; more so because,...

That some important files pertaining to the Coalgate scam have gone missing from Central government offices will raise eyebrows; more so because, under instructions from the Supreme Court, the CBI has been investigating the case independently of the Government. Now the agency has hinted that it may not be easy for it to continue with the probe without those files.

Predictably, some Opposition members alleged on Monday and Tuesday that the files have gone missing to spare embarrassment to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who had been in charge of the Coal portfolio for a time. The allegation is at least partly baseless because files related to allocation of around 45 coal blocks from 1993 to 2004 have gone missing, apart from applications from 157 private companies which had not got coal blocks.

True, Dr. Singh was the Union Finance Minister from 1993 to 1996 and, therefore, he may have at least known of irregular, if not illegal, allocations of coal. But between 1996 and 2004, when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in office, he was nowhere near corridors of power. Anyway, since the apex court is monitoring the CBI investigation into the case, it is sure to say that the country could not care about which party or coalition of parties was in power when the scam occurred, and that the guilty should not be spared.

It is just as well that the CBI has meanwhile said that it will report to the Supreme Court that some vital files pertaining to the case are missing. Since the years to which the missing files related spanned both the NDA and the UPA regimes, guilt may eventually have to be apportioned between the two although it was in the UPA-II regime that the scandal came to light.

Meanwhile, highly placed sources have said that among the missing files were those related to screening committee meetings, recommendations of States and PSUs and companies' presentations, which are required to establish irregularities in allocation of coal blocks to private companies as well as to joint ventures with government entities. For instance, in a case related to allotments done between 2006 and 2009, the CBI fears that the probe might be halted as some recommendations made by Congress MP Vijay Darda and forwarded by PMO are missing.
How such important files pertaining to such a huge scam could have gone missing from Government offices looks like a mystery which,however, should not be beyond the deductive resources of Indian intelligence agencies to trace.The nation has already had more than enough of scams and scamsters, and can do very well without either hereafter. The CBI has registered 13 cases against several private companies for alleged irregularities in allocation of coal blocks between 2006 and 2009 and three preliminary inquiries are underway as well. At such a time, if the files go missing from the Coal Ministry offices, it is nothing short of a national disgrace.
Therefore, it is not clear what the CBI wants the nation to believe when it says that it has “asked the government to retrieve the files”. Where are they to be retrieved from? If the Government can retrieve them, it means it knows where they are. What the CBI needs to unravel is who was trying to save whose skin by letting the files go missing. However, until that is done, judgment needs to be suspended by all on the identity of the guilty. But business in the two Houses of Parliament need not be.
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