Did he write a letter to the PM for allocation of coal blocks for SKS Ispat & Power Ltd? Yes, he did. Did the company get what it wanted? Yes, it did. Did Sahay’s brother attend a screening committee meeting as a company director? Yes, he did. Accused held guilty. Case closed.
Union tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay can’t believe his luck. One “innocuous letter” and one meeting attended by his brother, a mechanical engineer by training, has put him in the dock with the Opposition baying for his resignation. Pushed onto the backfoot by a hostile media, Sahay is scurrying for cover, pouring his heart out to whoever’s willing to listen.
The man alternates between defiance and despair. “As an MP from Jharkhand, I did write to the PM for the allocation. I wanted more investment to come in and more employment to be generated. So, why am I being treated like a criminal?” he asks, all righteous indignation. The next moment, though, he is whining. “People have known me since the JP agitation but never in the past 35 years have I been accused of corruption,” he says over the phone.
A protege of former prime minister Chandra Shekhar, Sahay appears to be genuinely bewildered. He was so confident about his case that he chose to call the media in the national capital to proclaim his innocence. But inarticulate at the best of times, the minister was caught fumbling for answers on camera, a public relations disaster that he could have done without.
Sahay in all probability is telling the truth when he says that his brother, Sudhir, is not a director of M/s SKS Ispat & Power Ltd. That is because there is nothing on record to suggest he is. The Registrar of Companies would have his name listed as a director otherwise. But the fact is he did attend a meeting of the screening committee, which was scrutinising applications for allocation. Worse, minutes of the meeting records that he attended it as a director.
Sahay’s explanation is simple. His brother is a ‘consultant’ and was advising SKS in its bid to set up a steel plant in Jharkhand. He was requested to attend the meeting as a company representative and to facilitate his participation, the company described him as a director. Whether this amounts to perjury, wilful distortion of facts or a security breach is a different matter.
His attempt to cite a Delhi High Court order in his defence merely served to add to the confusion. A single-judge bench of the high court had dismissed a petition with costs of Rs 2.5 lakh. The petition had alleged that SKS stood for Subodh Kant Sahay, that the latter had used his position to promote the company and secure coal blocks by influencing the PMO. The media found the allegations convincing enough. Sahay’s plea that SKS stands for Sri Krishna Structures and not ‘Subodh Kant Sahay’ has not cut much ice. Nor have his critics bought the “fact” that SKS was set up by Anil Gupta in 1995. With the prevailing mood in the country, he clearly stands no chance.
The Sahay saga involves two companies, one based in Haryana and the other based in Chhattisgarh. While the Sahay camp has alleged that the former, Prakash Industries Ltd, which dragged him to court, is owned by the Aggarwals (known to be BJP supporters), one presumes the latter, SKS, is more loyal to the Congress.
Both the screening committees, one in November 2007 and the other in July 2008, allotted two coal blocks, Fatehabad and Vijay Central, to both these companies jointly. They were advised to form a joint venture and share the coal in proportion to their estimated requirements and capacity. The coal ministry claimed that allocations were made strictly according to guidelines. But Prakash Industries Ltd, unhappy with their allocation after the JV, challenged it on the ground that Sahay used his position to corner the bigger share for SKS.
Apropos So, What Does SKS Stand For? (Sep 17), checking the Registrar of Companies records from the MCA site for change in directorship would have revealed whether Sudhir Sahay, the minister’s brother, was indeed ever a director of SKS Ispat or not. Similarly, whether the SKS in the company’s name was intended to match the initials of the minister can be verified by requesting for and verifying Form 1A filed while applying for the company’s name. These are routine procedures which, had you cared to follow, would’ve made your report more complete.
Sandeep Pitty, Calcutta
It can’t be easy for a simple man like Manmohan Singh to sup with the likes of Maya, Mamata or Mulayam, who are always on the lookout to extract their pound of the political flesh. Just for that, one must support him.
Balwinder Singh, Chandigarh
If it was merely a request to the PM to "intervene" in the matter and Dr MMS as usual obliged by intervening and getting requested allocations done. Then MMS is guilty not so much the minister SKS in this case or Jagatrakshakan in another.
Not too long ago politicians especially in this region used to extort companies to death wanting to setup industries. None invested as result. Now same politicians dole out all kind of inducement to bring business. This is welcome change. I have no doubt about unethical conducts including bribes involved here. But it is better than the other option - doing nothing.
Most of the issue surrounding coalgate and 2G are policy issues. If the companies follow the government policy and due process there is no reason to cancel contracts. Rule of law is often cited as an advantage of India over China. But if the laws change every day then India will be compared with Banana republics.
Clearly the BJP is not trying to make hay while the sun shines. It has the sarkar by the jugular, although some of it's CMs have had a hand in the proceedings.Imagine, none of this muck would have been raked up but for the CAG's report. No wonder the UPA wants the CAG abolished forthwith as who knows how many more scams are likely to be unearthed in the remaining 'pure as driven snow' UPA's term of two years.If the CAG continues its good work, it is curtains for MMS and Company.
“It is amazing that even the “COLD COAL” can generate so much of “HEAT” which can “MELT DOWN” entire system into “ASHES”.”
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