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Coalgate: Himachal Pradesh’s joint venture with private firm under ED scanner

The joint venture is headed by the state Chief Secy and its nodal agency in the HP Power Corporation.

Written by Ashwani Sharma | Shimla |
January 4, 2015 9:39:17 am

Having already suffered a major blow to its plans of setting up a 500 MW thermal power plant in West Bengal, following the cancellation of the coal block allotted to it in the Raniganj coalfields, the Himachal Pradesh government’s joint venture (JV) with EMTA (Eastern Mineral and Trading Agency) coal — the private firm it had roped in to develop the coal block and thermal plant — has now come under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

The joint venture is headed by the state Chief Secretary and its nodal agency in the Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation. It was formed in 2010 after the Union Coal ministry had allotted a coal block to the then Himachal Pradesh government in 2006-07. The state had tied-up with EMTA was to develop the coal block and set up the pit-head thermal power project on the 50:50 equity basis.

Inquiries reveal that the CBI, which is probing the coal block allotment scam on the directions of the Supreme Court, has allegedly found that EMTA violated provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. The CBI last month wrote to the ED urging it to lodge an FIR and seek details of the state government’s association with EMTA, which has its offices in Kolkata and Delhi.

It’s being alleged that the Himachal Pradesh government neither invited bids nor expressions of interest before selecting EMTA as its partner for setting up the coal block and the thermal power project.

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“An FIR has been lodged at the ED sub-zonal office in Shimla. The ED has written to the state Chief Secretary, who also happens to be chairman of the Himachal EMTA Power Limited seeking details of the company and the joint venture,” a senior ED said from New Delhi.

ED sources said some government officials and bureaucrats, who were associated with decision to engage EMTA and form a Joint Venture with the firm may be quizzed during investigations in next few days.Infact, JV has already spent crores of money on the project,which is now in complete limbo.

In its letter, the ED has sought the chief secretary ‘s reply on eight specific issues and authentic copies of the documents relating to the state’s decisions regarding the thermal power project and composition of the board of directors at EMTA when the project was allotted to the state.

The directorate has also asked for copies of documents pertaining to formation of the joint venture; names and designations of state government officers at the time of the allotment and if the state cabinet’s approval had been obtained, apart from details of the expenditure incurred by the JV.

The letter also seeks copies of documents submitted by EMTA to the state government; applications filed by the Himachal EMRA Power Limited with the Centre for allocation of a coal block and also letter relating to allocation of the block itself. ( it was later cancelled by the Supreme Court).

Managing Director of HP Power Corporation D K Sharma, the nodal officer for Himachal EMTA Power Ltd, on Saturday met Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials here and offered to provide all documents and information that the agency had sought.

The coal block had been allotted to the government by the union ministry but was among those cancelled by the Supreme Court in the coalgate scam. “The state government, at that time, had looked to create additional source of power for winter when electricity generation from hydro-power projects dip.

The situation has really changed now but if the ED asks for any information or documents, the government will provide the necessary details,” a senior official of the power department told the Indian Express.

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