Union minister for road transport and highways CP Joshi said on Tuesday that prime minister Manmohan Singh had proposed auction of coal blocks in 2005 itself but it could not be done because states ruled by the BJP and other opposition parties emphatically said that such a step would amount to encroaching upon their rights.
The Comptroller and Auditor General’s report has only implied that if coal auction had been carried out, a revenue of Rs 1.86 lakh crores would have accrued to the exchequer but it could not be possible due to opposition from states like Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh, Joshi said.
Addressing a press conference, the Union minister said coal blocks are allotted by the Centre but lease is executed by the state government under section 5(1) of the Mines, Minerals Development & Regulation Act, 1957. When opinions of the state governments were sought on the prime minister’s proposal to auction the coal blocks through an administrative order, states ruled by the Opposition parties objected on the ground that it would be in violation to 1957 Act and amount to encroachment on their rights. Following this, the matter was referred to the law ministry, which suggested that in place of an administrative order, an amendment bill should be brought to override the provisions of Mines, Minerals Development & Regulation Act.
A Bill was brought in 2008 and referred to standing committee of Parliament according to procedure. It was ultimately passed in 2010. But till the law was made, the process of coal block allotment could not have been stopped as it’s used for power, steel and iron production.
On the BJP’s demand for Manmohan Singh’s resignation, the Union minister said that before the prime minister, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan should resign for having recommended allotment of coal block to a private player in 2007 knowing fully well that coal block for captive use was given to a private company on a higher rate. The process of bidding for the Sasan project would also have been deeply impacted if Chouhan had assured Reliance Power that the state government would help it get coal reserves for use in the project, Joshi added.