The Environment Ministry has returned a “discriminatory” bank guarantee of Rs 100 crore that was collected from public-sector Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited (GSECL) during the time of UPA government while giving clearance for a new coal-based power plant that the company was setting up.
The bank guarantee was apparently taken as a safeguard measure to ensure that the captive coal mine in Odisha, which was to be used to supply coal to the power plant, would be operationalised by the Gujarat company within three years.
GSECL had applied for environmental clearance for an 800 MW super-critical coal-based power plant at Wanakbori in Kheda district of Gujarat where it was already operating seven units of 210 MW each. The coal for the new unit was to come from Machha Kata mine in Talcher district of Odisha. The project got clearance in December 2013. However, that coal block was among the hundreds whose allocation was cancelled by the Supreme Court last year due to allegations of massive irregularities.
Late last year, GSECL wrote to the Environment Ministry pleading that since the allocation of coal block in Odisha had been cancelled, the condition for operationalisation of the block within three years had been rendered invalid, and asked for a return of the bank guarantee.
It was while going through the files of GSECL that the ministry discovered that it was dealing with a unique case, as such a bank guarantee was not demanded from any other company whose similar projects were cleared. After more discussions, the ministry decided to return the bank guarantee to the company, as it was “discriminatory”.
Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar wrote to Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel informing her about the decision. While he did not bring up the matter of discrimination in his communication to Patel, Javadekar did attack the Congress in Parliament Tuesday, accusing its UPA government of discriminating against states having non-Congress governments.
“A difference was made between the states — states which were ruling party states (during the UPA government at Centre) were favoured and states like Gujarat and Odisha were discriminated against,” Javadekar said in reply to a question in the Lok Sabha.
The original bank guarantee of Rs 100 crore was sent to the company on July 28.