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Abhishek Sharan , Hindustan Times
New Delhi, August 26, 2013
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is probing alleged irregularities in coal block allocations, is still awaiting a key file comprising its comments on the TL Shanker Committee report that in 2007 had recommended imposition of a failure penalty secured by a bank guarantee on allocatees of captive coal blocks from the coal ministry.

The committee, known as the 'The expert committee on road map for coal sector reforms', had submitted its reports to government in December 2005 and September 2007. This file (13016/53/2007) — along with around 224 other files and records — are untraceable. The CBI has twice sent reminders to the ministry for the missing files as they are allegedly hampering its probe.

Recommending "efficient" procedures for allocation of captive coal blocks with "proven reserves" to private firms, "the TL Shanker committee had recommended that there should be a zero date — being the date on which the mine plan approval, environmental approval and forest land clearance are in place — by which coal would be available, subject to a cap of 36 months from it," said a CBI source.

The source said, "According to the committee, the allocatee should give a commitment to mine a targeted amount of coal in a specified period, which should be backed by a failure penalty per tonne duly secured by a bank guarantee." The source said, "The failure penalty should be encashed pro-rata to the annual shortfall over the committed target."

"The committee had recommended that the level of profit share for the government should be a key biddable parameter. The coal block allocation process should emulate the New Exploration Licensing Policy that pertains to exploration and production of hydrocarbons," said the source.

The Central Vigilance Commission has sought from the CBI clarifications about the missing files related to the coal scam and its impact on the probe, according to the source.