Amid reports that CBI could question Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, the state government on Thursday said Patnaik had written a letter to the Prime Minister for examining Hindalco's request for block allotment "keeping the best interest of the state in mind".
"Keeping the best interests of the state in mind, the chief minister had written a letter to the PM indicating that Hindalco's request for Talabira II coal block in the IB valley of Jharsuguda district be examined," Odisha government said in a press statement.
The statement comes in the wake of reports that CBI may question Patnaik in connection with alleged irregularities in allocation of coal block to Hindalco as he had written a letter to the coal ministry after application of the Aditya Birla company was rejected in 2005.
The state government said Patnaik had requested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for examining Hindalco's request for the block as the company was "setting up an aluminium smelter of a capacity of 260,000 tonnes per annum in Sambalpur district, adjoining Jharsuguda, for which they needed a captive power plant of 900MW capacity."
Since power is a major raw material for an aluminium project and such a project has the added benefit of promoting value addition in the state, "thereby adding to our revenue and generating employment, we had asked the central government to examine the request."
It stressed the "state government had all along held that higher priority be given to units adding more value in our state and instead of sending the raw material to some other state."
Further, the communique mentioned that "as per the procedure for coal block allocation, the final decision rests with the central government. Talabira II block was allocated jointly to MCL, NLC and Hindalco in November 2005 by the central government."
The state government said it accorded utmost importance to mineral development in the state taking into account the abundant reserves of bauxite, iron ore and coal as it would mean value addition and creation of more jobs which in turn could bring more revenue.
If the letter is the only basis on which the speculations is being made, then "I would submit thats very unfortunate because, this is not something that is not being done behind closed doors or done in a clandestine manner", BJD leader and Lok Sabha MP Baijayant Panda said.
CBI sources earlier on Thursday said its officials were scrutinising the documents found a letter written by Patnaik requesting for a relook and reverse rejection of Hindalco's application for Talabira II block in Odisha.
CBI said while no final decision has been taken as to who all would be questioned, the sources said the chief minister would be questioned only if need was felt to seek his views on the reasons for recommending coal blocks to Hindalco.