Indian prime minister dismisses claims of corrupt coalfield sales

27 August 2012 (Last Updated August 27th, 2012 18:30)

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has dismissed claims that the government conned private companies out of billions of dollars through the improper sale of coalfields.

prime minister

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has dismissed claims that his government conned private companies out of billions of dollars through the improper sale of coalfields.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reported last week that the sale of coalfields without open bidding between 2004 and 2009 cost India $33bn.

After the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party refused to let him defend his government in parliament last week, the PM took to Twitter to make his case.

"The observations of the CAG are clearly disputable," Singh said. "I wish to say that any allegations of impropriety are without basis and unsupported by the facts."

The government took a policy decision on June 28, 2004 that competitive bidding be introduced in the coal block allocation policy.

But the opposition, which has deadlocked parliament, said in a statement that the exploitation of coal blocks allotted between 2004 and 2012 is "negligible".

"For most of these coal blocks, statutory and environmental permissions have not been given. The Prime Minister's argument that pending change of policy to competitive bidding, allocation was necessary for the growth of GDP is eyewash. None of these coal blocks have contributed to the GDP," the statement continued.

The alleged scam has angered anti-corruption protesters who on Sunday tried to reach the PM's house, but were met with water cannon and tear gas used by the police.

The demonstrators said both Congress and the BJP are to blame for endemic corruption in Indian politics.

"Our protest today was to tell the country how the Congress and the BJP are hand-in-glove in looting the country," protest leader Arvind Kejriwal of the India Against Corruption group was quoted by AFP news agency.


Image: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Credit: World Economic Forum