Over the last four years, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, or DRI, which is the investigative arm of the department of revenue in the finance ministry, has levelled allegations of over-invoicing of imports
of coal and electricity generation equipment against at least forty of India’s biggest energy companies. The total amount involved in the scandal is an estimated Rs 50,000 crore, or more than eight billion dollars at the current exchange rate. Of this amount, around Rs 30,000 crore is on account of the over-invoicing of coal imported mainly from Indonesia. The remaining Rs 20,000 crore relates to allegations of over-invoicing of power machinery imported largely from China. The higher costs were passed on to consumers, who had to pay more for electricity.
On 26 November, ahead of the assembly election in Gujarat, the state’s election commission served a notice to Thomas Macwan, the archbishop of Gandhinagar, seeking an explanation for a public letter that he wrote on 21 November to the Catholic community. “Not a single day goes without an attack on our churches, faithful or institutions,” the archbishop had noted in his letter
. “Nationalist forces are on the verge of taking over the country. The election results of Gujarat State Assembly can make a difference.” Two days after receiving the commission’s notice, the archbishop reportedly submitted a reply
clarifying that he was referring to “pseudo-nationalists,” and that he had no mala fide intentions.
On 14 March, as the counting of votes for the Lok Sabha by-polls in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur constituency were underway, Rajeev Rautela, the area’s district magistrate, became the subject of controversy after preventing the media
from reporting the results. After the completion of eight rounds of counting, Gorakhpur’s electoral officers had only intimated the media about the numbers from the first round. The reason for this delay was Rautela—the district magistrate claimed that the election observers had not signed it yet. Later, Rautela not only barred the media from entering the counting area, he forbade the electoral officers from providing updates to the media. This was done despite the fact that the reporters present held valid passes from the election commission—media persons were asked to maintain a distance from the counting area, which had been cordoned off by curtains. The issue began to be reported widely, and opposition leaders who caught wind of it began to protest in the state’s legislative assembly. It soon became evident that the Samajwadi Party was consolidating a lead over the Bharatiya Janata Party in Gorakhpur—the bastion of the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath.
In the cover story of The Caravan’s March 2018 issue, “Coalgate 2.0
,” Nileena MS reports that a joint venture of the Adani Group and a Rajasthan power corporation that is currently exploiting a captive coal block in Chhattisgarh is in clear contempt of the Supreme Court’s landmark 2014 ruling regarding the “Coalgate” scam and in breach of later laws, yet has faced no action under the Modi government. The Supreme Court had declared illegal 214 coal-block allocations, and noted a pattern of state-owned enterprises granting lucrative contracts to private firms to mine and deliver coal from their blocks. This compelled parties involved in exploiting the blocks to reapply for permissions and renegotiate all mining agreements under stringent new rules—and yet the joint venture continues to operate on the terms of a pre-2014 agreement, which gives the Adani Group control over it. Public documents show that existing arrangements promise the joint venture undue gains of at least Rs 6,000 crore. In addition, the Adani Group will receive an estimated rock-bottom benefit of Rs 1,000 crore through arrangements for a power plant that it is to run at the coal block. Nileena writes, “By anything but the most conservative estimates, these sums are likely to be far higher.”
In keeping with its pattern of furnishing testimonies that amend, distort or completely roll back on the statements formerly given to journalists, the state of Maharashtra continued its arguments on Friday in the Supreme Court to oppose an investigation into the suspicious death of Judge BH Loya. The state argued that the statements of RK Sharma, one of India’s foremost medico-legal experts—who had told me in an earlier interview that the medical documents pertaining to Loya’s death show no sign of a heart-attack and hint towards poisoning—could not be trusted. The state submitted that Sharma only had a casual conversation with a journalist and had been quoted out of context. As was the case with earlier testimonies
, the state’s arguments about Sharma, too, are easily disprovable with the facts that are available.
Sanjay Fadnavis, a cousin of the chief minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis, made a late-night call to threaten an advocate who had been working to obtain information regarding the mysterious death of the judge BH Loya.
On 3 March, the election commission will announce the results of the assembly elections conducted a week prior in the states of Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya. In Nagaland, the Bharatiya Janata Party is in alliance with the regional Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, after splitting from the incumbent ruling party, the Naga People’s Front. Exit polls in the state have predicted a tight contest between the contesting factions, with a slight edge to the BJP-NDPP alliance.
An anonymous letter
written by a civil servant, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has levelled serious allegations against the multinational consulting firm KPMG’s India operations. In the letter, which is dated 5 December, a senior bureaucrat—who claims to be a member of the elite Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and holds the post of a director in the union government—accuses the group of exercising influence over key government officials by, among other means, recruiting their children and relatives. It alleges that there is a pattern of influence among senior officers in the central and state governments and top executives in KPMG India. Other allegations stated in the letter include the purported offer of a bribe to a bureaucrat, and the awarding of crucial government contracts to international firms, to the detriment of domestic industry.
On 16 February 2018, the Delhi High Court vacated an injunction against The Caravan’s February 2011 cover story, “Sweet Smell of Success,” a profile of Arindam Chaudhuri, the former honorary dean of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM). The profile was written by one of The Caravan’s contributing editors, Siddhartha Deb, a renowned novelist and university professor based in New York. It was widely acclaimed at the time of its publication for its thorough and even-handed portrayal of Mr Chaudhuri and the institute he headed.
In what is perhaps the worst crisis of Angela Merkel’s political career, Germany has been witnessing its most protracted political stalemate—federal elections held in September 2017 presented inconclusive results, and the country’s future has since been mired in uncertainty. Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union, and its Bavarian partner, the Christian Social Union, secured 33 percent of the votes—their worst electoral result since 1949. The CSU-CDU alliance lost 65 seats compared to its 2013 election victory, though they remain the largest force in the German parliament, Bundestag.
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