India's national auditor said today that the government had lost huge sums of money by selling coalfields to private companies without competitive bidding.
The report to parliament estimated that private companies had raked in a profit of £22 billion because of the low prices they paid for the fields.
It revealed that 142 coalfields had been sold off since July 2004. Some of the coalfields bought in 2004 did not begin production until 2011, while some companies later made enormous profits by selling the coalmines.
The report criticised the sales procedure and said the allocation of coalfields "lacked transparency and objectivity."
The auditors said the allocations were made on the recommendation of state governments.
They exonerated Prime Minister Manmohan Singh even though he was running the coal ministry during that period.
The report by the Comptroller and Auditor General sparked a storm of criticism of a government that has been floundering under a crush of scams and corruption accusations and has been unable to push through critical economic reforms.
Opposition MPs slammed the government for not pushing ahead with legislation on auctioning procedures for coalfields that has been pending in parliament since 2006.
"This is a scam that has been taking place under the prime minister's nose. We want answers and an explanation," said a spokesman of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
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