If "coal auction anti-poor", how are others pro-poor, Mr. Jaiswal?
When a person is charged with a criminal offence, the defendant is as aggressive to prove his innocence as is the prosecution to prove him guilty to get him the highest punishment provided under the law. The murder invents the plea that he killed his target in self-defence fearing that the latter may kill him. But both are not —and cannot be — right and the court finally gives its verdict of guilty or not guilty.
That is what the Manmohan Singh government seems to be doing having been cornered from all sides by the CAG indictment of its failure to auction coal blocks causing the Rs. 1052 crore loss to the State exchequer. Just as any accused must invent some alibi, Union Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, did not lag behind. If bidding was allowed, he has come out with the logic, it would promote commercial mining and would lead to a situation where power companies would ultimately end up selling electricity at exorbitant rates.
He went further: "If we have the coal and cannot use it, then what's the point in having it? We encourage private players so that the full potential can be exploited".
Earlier, the Ministry had come out with the argument that it was following the policy laid down in 1993 (when Congress government under late Mr. Rajiv Gandhi was ruling the country). Does it not imply that it is a status quo government which does not wish to have a relook at the old policies even if not in the interest of the nation?
As the heat on the 2G spectrum scam grew still unbearable, UPA government had claimed that it was following the policy laid by the then BJP-led NDA government in 2001. But the question arose: Why did the UPA found itself dutybound to follow a policy which had been framed by NDA? Since when did the UPA start promoting the NDA agenda?
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mr. Arun Jaitley was quick to ask: Will a sane person sell at 2001 prices his property in 2008? Even government would not allow it; It would ask the stamp duty to be levied at prices prevailing in 2008 and not in 2001 when it was acquired. The Income Tax Department would frown at such a dubious transaction.
To blunt the opposition attack, UPA even went in, in vain, for witch-hunting and tried to probe the case as back as 2000 when NDA was ruling.
Mr. Jaiswal is a very senior politician and seasoned person. He forgets that government has been calling for bid in almost every small and big case, like a cycle-stand, car parking, shops at bus stands, and even plots, houses, shops and other commercial sites. Does it then not cause harassment to the common man who has to pay through his nose for exorbitant rates charged by those who purchase such properties at such high prices?
Land, realty, home and other commercial site rates have risen very high only because government agencies have indulged in auction of such sites. The fact of the matter is that had the Delhi Development Authority and others not indulged in open auction of shops, houses and commercial sites, the prices would not have shot so high as to go beyond the reach of the common man.
It is also a fact that agencies like the DDA purchase land from the farmers at throw-away prices and make hefty profit when they sell the same to the common man at skyrocketing rates. In the process the common seller is the loser and the government agencies are the great gainers. It virtually amounts to government and government agencies exploiting the poor whose land is acquired by government.
Reality is that realty prices are so high that not to speak of metropolitan cities of Delhi, Bombay, Kolkata and Chennai, dreaming of having a home has become a day-dream for the aam aadmi even in a small town and even village.
Going by the same logic, will Mr. Jaiswal and UPA government stop auctioning of plots, houses and commercial establishments to ensure that these do not go beyond the reach of the common man? You cannot have one policy in allotment of coal blocks and just the opposite in other spheres.