Hitting back at CBI, former coal secretary PC Parakh said he had allocated the Talabira coal blocks to Hindalco only after the Odisha government said the company was setting up an aluminium plant in the state that would create jobs, and thus, benefit the public.
"There was logic in this argument. Even the Prime Minister's Office recommended that the company be allotted the coal block. So I allocated the block," Parakh told HT.
CBI has said the former coal secretary had failed to clearly specify the "public good" involved while reversing his earlier decision not to allocate the Talabira II and III coal blocks in Odisha's Jharsuguda and Sambalpur districts to Hindalco. This, the probe agency has alleged, was tantamount to abuse of his official position.
Asked why he didn't go back to the screening committee, which had been set up to recommend allotment of coal blocks, Parakh said: "There was no need to do that. I was chairing the screening committee and had personal knowledge of all proceedings before it."
"Captive coal blocks were being allotted to attract private players in coal mining. So, when Kumar Mangalam Birla argued that Hindalco was as qualified as the public sector Neyveli Lignite Corporation to get this block I had to take this into consideration," he said.
This is not the first time Parakh is at loggerheads with the government over coal. In a letter to then cabinet secretary BK Chaturvedi in 2005, Parakh had written: "...it (coal mafia) exists within the ministry of coal, coal companies, trade unions…"