Former corporate affairs minister Prem Chand Gupta on Thursday faced the heat of the coal fire, which has singed the high and mighty across political circles.
The inter-ministerial group (IMG) recommended the de-allocation of two coal blocks, one of which was associated with Gupta’s son.
Former corporate affairs minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Prem Chand Gupta denied allegations that the company run by his son may have benefited from the discretionary allocation of coal blocks. “My son has given no wrong information and has not hidden any facts,” Gupta told HT.
IST Steel and Power—owned by the Rajya Sabha MP’s son Gaurav — was allocated the Dahegaon/Makardhokra IV block in Maharashtra along with cement majors Gujarat Ambuja and Lafarge.
This was among the 31 coal blocks examined by the IMG for delays in coal production from captive mines, which were handed out several years ago.
The other block recommended by the IMG for de-allocation included Bhaskarpara block, which was jointly allocated to Electrotherm (India) Ltd and Grasim Industries.
The CBI, which is investigating the coalgate scam, has so far booked five companies for various irregularities — including illegitimate selling of stakes at a premium riding on unused coal reserves. Gupta denied that IST Steel and Power had divested equity on high valuations based on its coal reserves.
“The company has not indulged in profiteering by selling shares to any other company,” he said.
Gupta, a close confidante of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, pointed out that the CAG report erroneously states that Dahegaon /Makardhokra IV block is located in Chhattisgarh, instead of Maharashtra.
“The underground mine is located in Maharashtra. Besides, the CAG report has clearly mentioned that all underground coal mines, which are making losses, have been excluded from the auditor’s estimates of financial benefits,” he said.
Gupta denied exerting any influence to gain coal reserves for his son’s firm.
“The company had already commissioned the first phase of its sponge iron project, along with an 8-MW power plant, by the time the government allocated the coal block. Moreover, the company’s mining plan was approved by the ministry in May this year. The ministry should have corrected it and given appropriate information to the CAG,” he said.