PM relief funds lie in coal pit

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By CHARU SUDAN KASTURI in Delhi
  • Published 22.10.07
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New Delhi, Oct. 22: India’s largest public sector coal company illegally held back for a decade over Rs 10 crore raised from its employees’ salaries for the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund, an inquiry by the PMO has found.

But a hospital technician at Coal India Ltd (CIL), who first tried to use the right to information act to expose the mishandling of the funds by his employers, claims he is now being victimised.

Mujibur Rehman, who has spent over 15 years at CIL without a single transfer, has twice been sent to a new office in the past year, a period coinciding with his use of the information act against his employers.

The Prime Minister’s Office, which initially refused to respond to Rehman’s appeals for information on CIL’s contribution to the fund, was finally ordered by the Central Information Commission to look into the case.

“It’s a shocking case of breach of trust. Employees donate a day’s salary to help their fellow countrymen in need. The public sector company has no authority to hold back the money, as the PMO report has said,” RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal said today, disclosing the report.

An official in the office of CIL chairman Partha Bhattacharya confirmed receiving a copy of the PMO report, prepared on the basis of documents provided by the company.

A CIL spokesperson said the company today transferred Rs 5.7 crore to the PMO. Another Rs 1.45 crore would be transferred soon, he added.

The secretary in the coal ministry will speak to the PMO about the rest of the money, the spokesperson said.

Magsaysay award winner Kejriwal said: “The PMO should now file an FIR against CIL. Money has been collected in its name, but used for other purposes… the PMO is an affected party and needs to take action against CIL.”

From the Kargil war and earthquakes in Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir to cyclones in Orissa and the 2004 tsunami, CIL deducted a day’s salary from its employees as donation for relief for each natural calamity.

Of the Rs 40.65 crore that the company headquartered in Calcutta collected from 1999 onwards, only Rs 30 crore has been handed over to the Prime Minister’s fund, while the balance has been gathering interest in unauthorised accounts, the inquiry found.

Some of the money was transferred only after the inquiry was launched, the PMO report said.