“Dealing with the coal mafia requires strong political commitment as well as the ability to enforce law and order at both the Central and State levels which did not exist,” the former Coal Secretary, P.C. Parakh, said in his letter to the then Cabinet Secretary, B.K. Chaturvedi, way back in 2005.

Pointing the finger at the then Minister of State for Coal, Shibu Soren, Mr. Parakh told the Cabinet Secretary that some of the policy initiatives could not be implemented because of his unwillingness to bring about transparency. The letter was written in response to Mr. Soren’s allegations complaining to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about Mr. Parakh and his style of functioning.

On Mr. Soren’s charge that the Coal Secretary did not respect political leadership, Mr. Parakh wrote: “If respect for political leadership implies complying with oral orders or recording notings that suit the Minister’s interest as against [the] public interest, I am perhaps guilty of [the] alleged shortcomings. As Secretary to the Government of India, I have both the right and responsibility to advise the Minister as to what I consider rational, fair and in [the] public interest. It is, of course, for the Minister to accept or reject the advice.”

In fact, Mr. Parakh had pitched for a more transparent method of coal block allocation through competitive bidding but the Minister was opposed to it. It has also been revealed that Mr. Soren tried, on a number of occasions, to get Mr. Parakh transferred for insisting on competitive bidding for auctioning coal blocks.

Mr. Soren, on February 7, 2005, sought Mr. Parakh’s transfer alleging that the official was deliberately attempting to suppress information about the coal mafia, bypassing ministers and not listening to the political executive. In his reply, Mr. Parakh wrote to the Prime Minister that the Minister had the best knowledge of the coal mafia since he came from the State — Jharkhand — which is the stronghold of the organised group.

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