The UPA Government may keep harping on the note that coal mining policy was not formulated by them and that the allocations that are under the scanner now were not entirely carried out during their term, but the parliamentary panel has proven that the Government is not as innocent as it may want to portray themselves in front of the people.
It turns out that of the 60 blocks for which the panel may recommend cancellation of licenses, 53 were allotted during the Congress-led UPA regime and seven during the pre-2004 BJP-led NDA regime. It cites non-progress as the reason for cancellation.
Coal ministry sources have clarified that these coal blocks, barring a few, are different from those mentioned in the CAG report that created a political storm recently, with the BJP stalling Parliament proceedings for the past couple of weeks, demanding the Prime Minister’s resignation.
On Monday, the BJP continued its protests, resulting in both Houses getting adjourned till 12 noon as soon as the members met. The Comptroller and Auditor General has said that that private companies had a windfall gain of about Rs 1.86 lakh crore from what it calls non-transparent allocation of 142 coal fields. The BJP maintains that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who held coal portfolio during the period in question, must take moral responsibility and step down. It has also sought cancellation of licences that under the scanner.
According to an NDTV report, an internal note of the inter-ministerial group accessed by the channel says that the cancellations that it recommends could defuse the current crisis. The panel, set up in June this year, also stated that production in the 60 blocks that it has identified for non-performance is not likely to start operating by March 2013.
Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal has asked the panel for a status report by September 15. The recommendations of the inter-ministerial panel are not binding upon the Coal Ministry. But the PMO appears keen for action against defaulters. Two companies that could be affected, according to the documents accessed by NDTV, are Jindal Steel and Power Limited, owned by Congress parliamentarian Navin Jindal, and Usha Martin, owned by the Jhawar family. They were each assigned coal blocks in Jharkhand.