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Opposition unmoved by PM's stand on coal files, houses adjourned
Tuesday September 3, 2013 11:13 PM, IANS

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured parliament Tuesday that his government has nothing to hide on the coal mines allocation and it was looking for "so-called missing files or papers" linked to the CBI probe.

But the opposition, strident in its criticism of the government, remained unmoved by the prime minister's statement, triggering noisy protests in both houses which led to their adjournment for the day.

Speaking a day before his departure for Russia to attend the G20 Summit, Manmohan Singh said it would be wrong to conclude that official papers sought by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the alleged irregularities in allocation of coal blocks were indeed missing.

"I would like to emphasize that the government is making all efforts to locate the papers requisitioned by the CBI and, at this stage, it would be premature to say that some papers are indeed missing," he said.

"A vast majority of the papers sought by the CBI have already been handed over to them," he said.

"However, disregarding the factual position, some members have gone ahead and drawn their own conclusions that there is something fishy and the government is hiding something."

"Let me assure this august house that the government has nothing to hide," the prime minister said.

He urged members of parliament not to draw hasty conclusions and "let the house continue its normal business".

He said the government has cooperated with the Comptroller and Auditor General and the CBI from day one. "We will continue to do so."

"If the records in question are indeed found missing, the government will carry out a thorough investigation and ensure that the guilty are brought to book..."

In 2006-09, a total of 204 coal blocks were allocated to state-run and private companies. Of these, licences of 40 blocks were later cancelled.

Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal told parliament last month that 189 documents related to the allocations were missing.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, refused to accept the prime minister's statement.

BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad said: "It is a serious matter and country needs a reply... but prime minister has not answered any questions raised by the members."

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley alleged there was a notion that the missing files would not see the "light of the day" as the names of important people were involved in the alleged irregularities in the allocation of coal mines.

The Congress defended the prime minister.

"The prime minister has shown statesmanship in coming to the houses and making a statement. He has clarified the position," Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit said.

With disruption and eventual adjournment of both houses of parliament, a key economic reform bill related to pension sector could not be taken up in the Lok Sabha despite Finance Minister P. Chidmabaram moving it.

"We hope it is taken up Wednesday," said Dikshit.

The Congress charged the BJP of playing politics over the issue and going back on its assurance.

"The BJP had agreed in the business advisory committee that it would let the house run after the prime minister's statement. But that did not happen," said Dikshit.

Even in the prime minister's absence, the tussle may cast a shadow over parliament Wednesday when the upper house is expected to take up the landmark land acquisition bill, passed by the Lok Sabha Aug 29.

"If the government thinks that the government business is taken up and issue of accountability takes a back seat, sorry, this is plainly not acceptable. Cooperation cannot be one-way traffic," said Prasad.

BJP sources said the party would decide on its strategy on Sep 4 morning.

The Congress expressed hope the bill would be passed.

"All parties have supported the land bill. The government has agreed to some of their demands," said Dikshit.

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