Non-UPA govts delayed competitive bidding: Centre

Non-UPA govts delayed competitive bidding: Centre

Coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal says that Union government had no intention to point fingers at CAG

The Centre on Wednesday turned the heat on the Opposition and claimed that it had evidences that states ruled by the BJP and its allies and the Left parties had objected to auctioning of the coal blocks.

Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said the evidences, which could be placed before Parliament, include letters from the erstwhile chief ministers of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal, vehemently opposing auctioning of the coal blocks, between 2006 and 2009.

The UPA government seems to be readying itself to fight tooth and nail the Opposition’s allegations on irregularities in coal block allocations based on the CAG report. In defence, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had blamed the resistance from the non-UPA governments in five states for the delay in introduction of competitive bidding. “BJP governments in Chhatisgarh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand, the BJD government in Odisha and the Left Front government in West Bengal had in 2005 opposed auctioning of the coal blocks,” Jaiswal said.

“They vehemently opposed introduction of bidding system to allocate coal blocks, claiming that it went against the principle of federalism enshrined in the Constitution,” he said.

“Resistance from the state governments delayed the switch from the existing mechanism of allotting coal blocks through an inter-ministerial screening committee to auctioning.”

The CAG, in its report tabled in Parliament on Friday, pointed out that the national exchequer incurred a loss of Rs 1,86,000 crore for the delay in introduction of competitive bidding. “We can place before both Houses the letters from the chief ministers of the then governments of the states,” said Jaiswal. The Opposition was not ready for a discussion in Parliament, as it knew that the UPA government could prove beyond doubt that the non-UPA governments had delayed introduction of competitive bidding for coal block allocation, Jaiswal contended.

The Coal Minister said the Centre had no intention to point fingers at the CAG, since the latter was a Constitutional authority. He, however, added that the government did not agree with the presumptive loss assessed by the CAG.

He said the issue of coal block allotment was being probed by the CBI and stringent action will be taken if against private firms found guilty of furnishing wrong information to procure coal blocks.

“Of the 57 blocks allocated, 20 are in no go areas and only one is operational out of the remaining 37,” he said, adding the government would start allocating coal blocks through competitive bidding in three months.

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