Union minister of state in Prime Minister’s Office V Narayanasamy on Thursday brought the coal block allocation storm to Odisha when he questioned the intention of Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s in recommending allocation for a private company.
Narayanasamy said the Odisha chief minister had recommended (in 2002) allocation of coal block for Jindal Steel and Power Limited by cancelling prior allotment to another company. “What was the personal interest of the chief minister in that? When hundreds and thousands of people are there who wanted coal blocks, why only one company you are choosing? There is something behind it. It has to be investigated,” Narayanasamy told reporters here, adding that it is for the CBI to look into the matter.
Reacting to Narayanasamy, Patnaik said coal was a subject on which the central government had complete authority. He said as the state government had always stood for value addition, it recommended allocations to companies who had projects in the state, while the central government had allocated blocks in Odisha to a number of companies who do not have projects in the state.
Clarifying his stand on cancelling coal block allocation of another company to make way for Jindal project, Patnaik said: “The block had been given by the central government to a Tamil Nadu based company which had exceeded the deadline given to it.”
Besides Patnaik, Narayanasamy also targeted chief ministers of other coal bearing state for opposing the central government’s move for amending Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act and competitive bidding in coal block allocations. “Our move was opposed by Odisha government headed by Patnaik, Chhatisgarh chief minister Raman Singh, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Sivraj Chouhan, Jharkhand chief minister Arjun Munda and West Bengal (then) chief minister Budhadeb Bhattacharya,” he said.
Narayanasamy said during 1999-2003, the NDA government made 39 allocations without following transparent guideline. After UPA came to power in 2004, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ensured allocations were made in a transparent manner. “In 2005, guidelines were framed in such a way that allocations had to be made after meeting certain criteria,” he said.
Narayanasamy claimed the chief ministers of the coal bearing states concurred with the opinion of the central government that a screening committee headed by the Union coal secretary be formed to scrutinize allocations. “The chief secretaries of the coal bearing states were part of the committee. This was the policy followed by our government,” he said.
He said the BJP stalled Parliament as it did not want to have a comprehensive discussion on the issue for fear of being exposed. “Before asking the Prime Minister’s resignation, the BJP should ask the resignation of the chief ministers of coal bearing states,” he said.
The controversy over coal block allocations has taken the country by storm after the reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) was tabled in Parliament on August 17. The report has said there has been an estimated loss of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore to the government from allocations of 57 coal blocks to companies without competitive bidding.
The ruling Congress, especially Prime Minister, is under attack from opposition parties for the “scam”.
Narayanasamy said the report submitted by the CAG was not final and the central government could take action on it after a parliamentary committee panel – Public Accounts Committee – studied it and submitted a final report. “The Supreme Court has clearly said the CAG report has to be scrutinized by Parliament,” he said.