Chastened, govt may put on hold coal allocation

Chastened, govt may put on hold coal allocation

It is likely to await House nod to bill

Chastened, govt may put on hold coal allocation

Battered by the storm over ‘coalgate’, the Centre is planning to postpone allocation of coal blocks to industries until the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2011, is passed by Parliament.

Introduced in Parliament on December 12, 2011, the bill seeks to institute a regulator for the mining sector. It provides for the National Mining Regulatory Authority and the National Mining Tribunal at the Centre, while the states can set up their own mining regulatory authorities and mining tribunals.

Besides, the bill aims at amending laws on scientific development and regulation of mines and minerals, apart from suggesting mechanisms for profit sharing and bidding.

“The government prefers to have the regulator in place before auctioning of coal mines start,” sources said.Besides, the government is supposedly waiting for the Supreme Court verdict on a review petition questioning its policies on auction of natural resources, with respect to the 2G spectrum case.

“The ministry has asked for an opinion from the law department regarding the issue. The mines allocation has been put on hold till the ministry gets an opinion from the Attorney General,” a TV channel said, quoting Minister of State Dinsha Patel.
If the Centre eventually goes ahead with its plan to postpone coal block allocation, it will nullify the mining rights awarded for 143 blocks.

A total of 57 blocks were allocated to private players, but mining had started in nine blocks only.

The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on coal block allocation, that put the presumptive loss incurred by the national exchequer due to irregularities at Rs 1.86 lakh crore, has landed the UPA in a soup, with the BJP paralysing Parliament proceedings over its demand for the prime minister’s resignation.

On Saturday too, the BJP lashed out at Finance Minister P Chidambaram for his “zero loss” quip. “Kapil Sibal (communications minister) had propounded the zero loss theory in the 2G spectrum case... It was a bitter experience for him. He had to eat his words... Finance Minister P Chidambaram has not learnt lessons from Sibal’s bitter experience and has tried to take it further,” said Arun Jaitley, leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha.

Jaitley, who asserted that BJP will continue to press for Singh’s resignation, said once the coal blocks were allocated, the allottees’ market values sky-rocketed. “Once the coal blocks are alloted to private parties, the right to mine lies with the allottees and not with the Government of India. Even without actual mining the government has lost control over these mines,” Jaitley said, adding that the government lost a “huge opportunity cost.”

Besides, the CPM has already demanded cancellation of mining rights already allocated.
“The allocations made to the private companies should be cancelled and steps taken to recover the losses suffered by the government,” the party said.