BHUBANESWAR: Even after the Comptroller and Auditor General(CAG) pointed out irregularities and the countrywide outcry, Union coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal on Tuesday tried to defend the controversial coal block allotments and insisted there was no scam in it.

“Coal block allotments had been going on since 1993. The previous NDA government had allocated 43 coal blocks. The UPA government has only followed the process. There was no scam during the UPA government,” Jaiswal told the mediapersons here. Jaiswal had taken a similar stand during his previous visit to Odisha when he visited some coal mines in Angul district and faced black flag demonstrations by BJP.

Jaiswal evaded queries on coal blocks allotted to several private firms allegedly in an irregular manner. “I don’t keep records of private companies. The CBI is investigating the coal block allotment. Appropriate action will be taken by my ministry on the basis of CBI findings,” he said.

Odisha, one of the major coal bearing states, has been in focus ever since the Centre close on the heels of the allegations of scam, started cancelling coal blocks allotted to the state. Five coal blocks in Talcher area – Utkal D, Mandakini- B, Baitarani West, Naini and Patrapada blocks- have since been de-allocated, dragging the state government at least in one case to theSupreme Court in which the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) was found to have handed down majority 74% share to a Delhi-based firm, raising suspicions on possible underhand dealings.

As the focus on the government started intensifying it cancelled the deal with the private firm ostensibly to look clean. Amidst reports that some more coal blocks are likely to face the axe in the near future, the government has launched an attack against the Centre for cancelling the coal block allocations.

Jaiswal at the media conference, however, maintained that his ministry had no role in the de-allocation of coal blocks. “The decision was taken by an inter-ministerial group,” he said. He also ruled out re-allocation of the coal blocks already de-allocated. “The de-allocations were done on the basis of no progress of works after several years of their allotment,” he said.

The Union minister, however, defended re-allocation of a coal block to the NTPC on the ground that there was prior commitment for that. “We had earlier made commitments to the NTPC to allocate the coal blocks,” he said. Jaiswal said his ministry would consider any fresh proposal for coal block allocation sent by the state government.

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

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