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India Inc asks CoalMin to urge Orissa to defreeze blocks

The State’s decision to freeze coal block clearances may jeopardise investment plans of over R7,000 crore,corporates say.

Written by Priyadarshi Siddhanta | New Delhi |
November 21, 2013 2:42:58 am

A group of industrialists have asked the coal ministry to urge the Orissa government to withdraw its decision to freeze clearances for coal blocks allocated in the state.

The industrialist say the freeze would jeopardise their investment plans worth over Rs 7,000 crore.

The industry leaders led by Jindal Steel and Power chief Naveen Jindal met coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and asked him to convince the Naveen Patnaik government to revoke its decision to withhold clearances for blocks allocated between 1993 and 2012.

The delegation included Vedanta Aluminium CEO SK Roongta and Monnet Ispat chief S Jajodia.

Fearful that extending clearances to 29 captive blocks can be questioned by the CBI and invite further scrutiny,Orissa chief secretary JK Mohapatra has written to coal secretary SK Srivastava saying the state would not grant clearances in view of the ongoing CBI probe in the alleged irregularities in allocation of coal blocks and pending litigations in the Supreme Court.

The industry leaders said they had applied for various coal blocks in Orissa and firmed up their investment blueprints,but the decision on not to grant clearances to 29 mines would adversely impact industrialisation in the coastal state and hit investor sentiments. “The delegation has sought our intervention and I have asked my ministry to allay their apprehensions,” Jaiswal said. When contacted a top coal ministry official said the ministry is framing its response. “Wherever there is an irregularity,the state government should proceed as per rules laid down under the law,” he reasoned.

The Patnaik government’s move comes after the CBI named Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and former coal secretary PC Parakh in a FIR on irregularities in allocation of Talabira-II block in Orissa.

According to a ministry source,the CBI is increasingly inquiring into the role of state government officials in allocation of coal blocks between 2006-09. The agency has already questioned a former coal secretary and filed FIR against Parakh.

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