An RTI (right to information) applicant who exposed diversion of funds by Coal India Ltd (CIL) meant for the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund has alleged that he is being threatened by the public sector unit’s management. Muzibur Rehman, 38, through his RTI filings had ascertained that more than Rs10 crore collected by cutting a day’s wages of the employees on several occasions during the last decade had never reached the Prime Minister’s Office.
Mint first reported the story on 20 June about the RTI applications filed by Rehman, employed with South Eastern Coalfields Ltd, the Coal India subsidiary. The Prime Minister’s Office later confirmed that it had not received the money.
Rehman says that after news of the diversion of funds was made public, some members of the management, of the subsidiary as well as Coal India, threatened him and demanded that he withdraw the RTI applications.
Muzibur Rehman, who exposed diversion of funds by Coal India Ltd, which was meant for the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund
“Some members of the management called me to their cabin and said that I ‘would be left on the road’ unless I stopped filing RTI applications seeking information on the organization,” said Rehman at a press conference here.
Managing director of South Eastern, B.K. Sinha, said that he was unaware of Rehman being threatened or victimized. “I assure that Rehman will be provided with adequate support from the management,” insisted Sinha.
Rehman, who has been employed with South Eastern as a technician at a hospital run by Coal India, claims that after he filed his first RTI application on being denied a promotion, the South Eastern management had issued a show-cause notice against him.
He was also transferred out twice in the last couple of years, he claimed. It was during this period that he filed the other RTI’s seeking information on the transfer of voluntary donations by Coal India employees to the PM’s Relief Fund.
Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, who attended the press conference, said that the Prime Minister’s Office must register a cheating case against the officers of Coal India who are responsible for the diversion of funds.
“The government talks of a whistle-blower’s Act (to protect people who raise issues of corruption),” he said. “The proposed Act is meant for people who get inside information risking their life or career. But first let it at least assure that people who file RTIs are not victimized.” Magsaysay Award winner and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal also said that Rehman should be granted police protection.
The missing money was collected by Coal India during the Kargil War between India and Pakistan as well as other natural disasters such as an earthquake in Gujarat and a cyclone in Orissa. Of the Rs40 crore collected by Coal India, only Rs30 crore had been deposited with the relief fund.
Replies furnished by Coal India and it’s subsidiary South Eastern to RTI applications filed by Rehman show that the money was diverted by a group of trade union leaders and representatives from the management by opening a bank account in the name of a joint consultative committee.