Govt’s coal push contradicts clean energy pledge, lays bare dark underbelly

India’s energy mix is heavily tipped towards coal-based thermal power | Photo - Special Arrangement

Forty-three years ago, a baby boy was born in a poor family in the dusty lanes of coal-rich Parbelia town in West Bengal’s Purulia district.

What followed next was akin to a Bollywood movie script—a rag to riches story with a heady mix of crime and politics, the complex milieu that continues to fascinate our filmmakers about life in collieries, the dark underbelly of India’s power sector.

The boy, Anup Majhi alias Lala, grew up to become the kingpin of a coal smuggling business worth over Rs 15,000 crore. The illegal operation, now being probed by central agencies, is seen as one of the most politically sensitive scams to ever rock the state with two close relatives of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee coming under the investigation.

The probe agencies claim that Majhi, who had started off as a fish vendor, built his illegal empire with the patronage of top officials of the Eastern Coalfield Limited (ECL), senior police officials and politicians.

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