Government today rejected as “impossible” and “illegal” BJP’s demand for cancelling the allocation of all coal blocks “blindly”.
Union Minister Jairam Ramesh,who was fielded by Congress at the AICC briefing,sought to puncture the Opposition claims that action on the issue was taken due to its pressure and said the move to identify the bonafides of coal allottees was initated in January and not because of BJP protests or CAG report.
“Nothing was done without the knowledge and approval ofthe state governments. I don’t think there is a single incident when the screening committee allotted a mine against the approval and knowledge of the state,” Ramesh said.
He said action will be taken against the coal companies after the IMG report is out “within a matter of days” and the report will be “available in public domain”.
“The report of the IMG is going to be very crucial because the IMG will for the first time establish why a particular company has not produced coal even after four-five years. It is expected to come out with its report”, Ramesh said.
When pointed out that the IMG was set up in April-May,Ramesh said the exercise to identify the bonafides of the allottees was initated by a group in January itself,which was later formalised with the setting up of the IMG.
Posing a questionairre of “eight inconvenient truths” to BJP,Ramesh said a number of BJP ministers had objected to changing the system of allocating coal blocks to private companies by competitive bidding.
He also alleged BJP Chief Minister of Jharkhand Arjun Munda and BJD Chief Minister of Orissa Naveen Patnaik had written letters to the Centre recommending allocation of blocks to companies which are now being called “tainted firms”. Ramesh argued the then Coal Minister in UPA I government Shibu Soren,whose party JMM is in coalition with BJP in Jharkhand,had also objected to competitive bidding on the ground that it was an “assault” on federal structure.
Asked how can government put the blame on BJP for the stand taken by then Coal Minister of UPA I government in 2006,Ramesh said “it was then the stand of the Prime Minister that there should be competitive bidding,then the Coal Minister (Soren) opposed it. Soren is now the Super Chief Minister (in Jharkhand). Where is he today? He is with BJP today.”
Despite being a Chief Minister of BJP-JMM government,Soren as an MP had also voted for the trust vote of UPA in July 2010,a step which cost him his chair in the state as any angry BJP had withdrawn support from the government led by him in Jharkhand.
JMM had also supported UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee in the President election in July.
Ramesh also said Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan had gone on fast in Bhopal opposing the non-clearance of permission to a coal mine in his state by the Ministry of Environment and Forest and also written to the Prime Minister demanding faster clearance.
The minister,however,evaded a direct reply when asked about the controversy surrounding a letter written by Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahay to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recommending allotment of coal mines to a company with which his brother was linked.
“There may be companies which did not give all details. The IMG is looking into all those companies which have got mines on the basis false documents. Certainly,action would be taken against them,” Ramesh said.
He,however,refused to take questioins on CAG’s method of computation of loss in these allocations saying since CAG report has been made a political issue,he was talking about the political aspects of the controversy stirred by BJP.