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Coal Secy shoots down de-allocation

Blocks: Questions proposal to cancel allotments to two firms

Written by Priyadarshi Siddhanta | New Delhi |
September 3, 2012 2:13:38 am

Differences have cropped up in the Coal Ministry over de-allocation of coal blocks awarded to major firms like Jindal Steel and Power,despite instructions from the Prime Minister’s Office.

While the proposal for de-allocation had come from the inter-ministerial group mandated by the PMO to weed out those blocks where work to extract coal has not begun,action against the Naveen Jindal-promoted company was shot down by Coal Secretary Sanjay Srivastava last week. Jindal is a Congress MP from Kurukshetra in Haryana.

Headed by Coal Ministry Additional Secretary Zohra Chatterji,the inter-ministerial group had scrutinised 18 blocks at its meeting on July 25. It had identified Jitpur coal mine of JSPL and Lohari block of Usha Martin company,both in Jharkhand,for de-allocation.

Both companies were served show-cause for failing to meet milestones,and the information was sent to the Coal Secretary. Srivastava,however,has said the affected companies have not been given a fair chance to present their version.

He has also questioned the inter-ministerial group’s recommendation on the ground that the needed guidelines in this connection are still being formulated. “In the absence of such guidelines,it is not understandable on what basis the IMG has taken such a decision in respect of the mentioned blocks,” Srivastava wrote.

According to him,the group made the recommendation based on old information while it should have done so “after examination of all updated facts”.

While Chatterji has countered these accusations from the secretary,the differences show how difficult it will be for the government to move ahead on the coal scam. The Additional Secretary has argued that the Law Ministry has said the inter-ministerial group cannot re-consider its own recommendations,though the government can take a final view.

Interestingly,Chatterji has accused own ministry of not providing information. “IMG is not in the know of various other information pertaining to coal blocks,which may be available to the ministry and can have a bearing on the extent of action merited against the allocatees.”

According to sources,the Coal Ministry headed by Sriprakash Jaiswal is taking its time providing the information needed.

The PMO has set a deadline of September 15 to initiate action on de-allocation of coal mines to many of the 58 allottees to whom show-cause notices have been issued.

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