Coal block allocations illegal: House panel

Coal block allocations illegal: House panel

Most mines leased out during UPA regime

Coal block allocations illegal: House panel

In yet another embarrassment to the UPA government, a Parliamentary Committee on Tuesday said the controversial coal block allocations were “unauthorised and illegal” and demanded scrapping of mines where output had not started.

Though the panel had said allocation of coal blocks done between 1993 and 2010 as “largesse was distributed to a few in total abuse of power”, most of it  was done under the UPA regime, pointing a finger at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh again.

In all, 218 coal blocks were allocated between 1993 to 2010; five under the P V Narasimha Rao government, four under H D Deve Gowda’s, 32 under the A B Vajpayee government and 175 under Mamohan Singh’s ministry.

The Standing Committee on Coal and Steel, in its report which was tabled in Parliament, said “several coal blocks were allocated to a few fortunates without disclosing the same to the public at large.”

Neither any auction was held nor any revenue accrued to the government from the allocations, the report said. The entire decision-making process for distribution of coal blocks needs investigation and action should be initiated against the culprits.

Terming the distribution of coal block the greatest example of betraying public trust by the government, the panel headed by Trinamool Congress leader Kalyan Banerjee said it was “surprised” to note that between 1993 and 2004 no data was maintained by the Coal Ministry regarding the number of applications received seeking mines while no “bidding process or auction was held.”

All coal blocks allotted to the private companies where production has not started yet should be cancelled immediately and PSUs warned to start mining work at the earliest. However, the panel did not recommend the cancellation of blocks to those firms who have started excavating fuel. “As companies have started extracting coal, cancelling such licences would hit the power production,” Banerjee said.

“The state and central government PSUs should not allow private parties to extract coal from coal mines that are allocated to them,” it said. “Natural resources and state largesse were distributed to few fortunates for their own benefit without following any transparent system and it was total abuse of power by the government.”

“The government cannot give largesse on its arbitrary discretion or its sweet will,” the committee said. Even though applications were sought for coal block allocation in 2005 and 2006, no bidding process or auction was held.

Though the report said the exchequer suffered huge losses it did not quantify. “Despite our repeated queries, the Coal Ministry could not give us information in respect of quantity of coal or its value,” Banerjee said.

CBI to submit both its reports to SC

Seeking to buttress its case that there was no dilution of its initial findings, the CBI is likely to submit to Supreme Court both its reports on the status of investigation into the allocation of coal mines, PTI reports from New Delhi.

Sources said CBI Director Ranjit Sinha, who has been asked to submit an affidavit by April 25, is, however, expected to inform the court that the coal report had been discussed with Law Minister Ashwini Kumar and other officers of the ministry.

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