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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Goa Opposition MLAs protest in Assembly after discussion over coal block ‘postponed’

Speaker Rajesh Patnekar adjourned the House for 15 minutes after Independent MLA Rohan Khaunte and Goa Forward Party (GFP) legislator Vijai Sardesai stepped into the well demanding a discussion.

By: Express News Service | Porvorim |
March 31, 2021 7:41:10 pm
The ongoing Budget Session, which opened on March 24 and was expected to last 13 days, was eventually adjourned till July 19. (Representational Image)

Opposition MLAs in the Goa Assembly attacked the BJP government on Tuesday after it sought postponement of its reply to a question over the status of a coal block in Madhya Pradesh which was allotted to Goa by the Union government.

Independent MLA Rohan Khaunte, as well as Goa Forward Party (GFP) legislators Vijai Sardesai, Jayesh Salgaonkar and Vinoda Paliencar sought to know the status of the coal block allotted to Goa, asking that all copies of the agreements between the government and the firm appointed as Mine Developer cum Operator (MOD) be furnished by the government. While a written reply to the question was given by Industries Minister Vishwajit Rane, the treasury benches requested the Speaker to allow postponement of the government’s reply to the question on the floor of the House.

Speaker Rajesh Patnekar adjourned the House for 15 minutes after Khaunte and Sardesai stepped into the well demanding a discussion. However, the ongoing Budget Session, which opened on March 24 and was expected to last 13 days, was eventually adjourned till July 19 as the State Election Commission declared imposition of the Model Code of Conduct ahead of polls to five municipal councils on April 23. The rising number of Covid-19 cases was another compelling reason for bringing the Budget Session to an early close.

Opposition MLAs claimed that no expression of interest was sought before finalising consultant a’XYKno Capital Services Pvt. Limited, Nagpur, as MDO.


“This is a matter of allotting a coal block to a developer. The coal block has mineral reserves of 37.99 million tonnes. Only the performance guarantee is worth Rs 163 crore. This appears to be a Rs 1,000 crore deal between the developer and the government,” Sardesai said.

He claimed a’XYKno Capital Services Pvt. Limited, which was roped in as MOD on January 4, 2020, was under CBI investigation in the 2012 coal scam worth Rs 1.86 lakh crore.

“This company also advises Madhya Pradesh State Mineral Corporation. So, there is a conflict of interest here. A tainted consultant has been put in place. This is a clearance sale of Goa. Why was KPMG, which advises Goa on tourism and the Centre on coal, not considered? The government has something to hide and that’s why it doesn’t want a discussion. This is unprecedented in Goa that a matter that has something to do with governance is being hidden in such a brazen manner,” Sardesai said.

In his written reply to the question, Rane stated that the Goa Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) had floated a request for proposal (RFP) on March 3 for the selection of the MDO for the Dongri Tal – II (Phase 1) Coal Mine in Singrauli district in MP. According to the allotment agreement of October 30, 2019, the performance security was Rs 163,95,90,400 but so far, no amount was spent. He stated that the consultant was appointed on nomination basis in terms of a decision taken by the PPP Steering Committee on October 23, 2020, and the decision was passed by the state cabinet on October 28, 2020.

He also stated that the Goa government was granted extension of time for the appointment of the MDO on five occasions by the Union coal ministry. Since the last extension was until March 28, the state government has sought additional time and is awaiting a response, the CM said.

The MLAs asked if the state government was aware of a recent call by the UN Secretary-general to cancel all planned coal projects around the world “to end the ‘deadly addiction’ to the most polluting fossil fuel”. Rane wrote in his written reply, “At present, there is no such proposal before the government for consideration”.

Rane later said, “The allegations made against the government are false. Making false allegations and trying to prove a point on procedures of allocation of the coal block are two distinct things. Till now, the coal block has not been allotted to anybody. Hence, casting aspersions on the government or its decision is not right.”

He said that the minutes of the PPP Steering Committee state that every aspect was considered and a’XYKnow does not have any pending case against it. “Coal allocation of Dongri Tal II was delayed on account of Covid last year. The whole idea of the Opposition was to attack the government,” Rane said.

Labelling the Opposition’s attack ‘childish’, the industries minister added that the present government does not want to take decisions hastily and land in a situation like the previous regime on whose watch the CBI had seized 22 files related to coal allocation that are yet to be returned.

“We roped in a consultant on a nomination basis as we were running out of time. Also, Covid struck and we did not want to lose a coal block. But we took every precaution to ensure we do not falter,” said Rane. He added that a’XYKnow had previously worked with 20 public sector undertakings.

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