Trinamool hauls govt over coal

Trinamool hauls govt over coal

Alleges govt ignored PSUs in allocation

Trinamool hauls govt over coal

Aggravating the crisis in the embattled ruling alliance at the Centre, a major UPA ally, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Tuesday hit out at the Centre for allegedly allocating coal blocks to private players, ignoring requests from public sector firms.

“Despite public sector organisations like Coal India and Steel Authority of India seeking the blocks, the government decided to allot them to private firms,” Kalyan Banerjee, Trinamool MP and the head of parliamentary panel told a private TV channel.

The scathing attack comes on a day when the TMC, after registering an overwhelming victory in the West Bengal municipal elections after contesting the poll on its own, claimed that it has the strength to rule the state without any coalition partner.

Banerjee’s remark assumes significance as the government has earmarked 54 new coal blocks for allocation through competitive bidding and government dispensation route. The process is expected to be completed this month.

Earlier in the week, Team Anna had raised questions on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s role in the contentious allocation of coal blocks and alleged widespread irregularities in the ministry when Singh was in charge. The allegations attracted strong opposition with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi describing them as “unfortunate.”

“The manner in which the Opposition parties and some anti-Congress elements are single-mindedly levelling unfounded allegations against the prime minister and the UPA government... that is really unfortunate,” she said. The government has been repeatedly criticised for coal block allocation between 1993 and 2009.

An earlier media report quoted a CAG report that spoke of undue benefits of over Rs 1.8 lakh crore accruing to private companies in coal block allocations. The government, however, said it had received no such report.

The government on Tuesday clarified that it had finalised three models for allocation of coal blocks in which both private and public sector companies can participate — auction, tariff-based competitive bidding and government dispensation route.

The coal ministry has also written to the chief secretaries of all states detailing the three models.

The ministry had earlier notified the Auction by Competitive Bidding of Coal Mines Rules, 2012 and the MMDR Act, 2010. Of the 54 new coal blocks earmarked for allocation, at least 12 blocks have been identified for the steel sector, seven for the cement sector, five for sponge iron and two for surface gasification. According to the government, 18 power plants in the country face acute coal shortage.

Of the 89 thermal power projects being monitored, 34 had fuel (coal) stock to last for less than seven days and 25 of these had less than four days stock, the government informed Parliament recently.


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