The government took the first step towards dousing the coal fire on Thursday by de-allocating four of the eight blocks, which the inter-ministerial group took up for evaluation on Wednesday.
Interestingly, three of the de-allocated blocks were allocated during the NDA regime. Besides, the government deducted portions of the bank guarantees submitted for three blocks and asked one allottee to furnish fresh guarantee.
Last month, state auditor CAG estimated that arbitrary allocation of 57 coal blocks to 25 private companies might have robbed the exchequer of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore in potential revenue. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, however, refuted the CAG's loss estimate.
However, the report put the government on the defensive and the opposition stalled the monsoon session proceedings in Parliament demanding the resignation of Singh.
Later, the IMG, headed by Zohra Chatterji, additional secretary in the coal ministry, called 29 coal block allottees to explain why they had delayed production.
The IMG was set up in July to recommend actions against allottees for not meeting the deadlines set for beginning production. The group has representatives from the coal, law, finance, power, steel, commerce and industry ministries.
In the first round, the ministry targeted only lesser-known firms - Field Mining & Ispat from Maharashtra, Castron Mining from West Bengal and Domco Smokeless Fuels from Jharkhand.
Coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said he expected more recommendations from the IMG on Friday.
Another 10 blocks that may include blocks held by corporate majors, such as the Tatas, the Jindals and the Essar group, would be taken up for evaluation on Friday.