New Delhi: Communications Minister Kapil Sibal on Wednesday said that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had arbitrarily allocated coal blocks during 1998-2003.

"There were no investigations done, no bank guarantees were given (for allocating coal blocks in the period 1998-2003). The private party just said they required coal, and blocks were allocated on the basis of requests, arbitrarily," Sibal said.

Reacting to the opposition demand for cancelling coal block allocations, Sibal said, "You cannot destroy an entire eco-structure. Making such demands means that you are not thinking about the country's interests."

The minister explained coal figures as input costs for sectors like power and steel, and said in a situation of high interest and transaction costs as in India, the country could ill afford sweeping measures like this, which would raise costs.

"There are huge investment in power projects, but no coal to feed them. Imported coal costs three times more than produced coal," Sibal said.

Listing the screening committees that worked to allocate coal blocks during the National Democratic Alliance government at the centre, Sibal said they functioned without any concrete guidelines.

"They had no guidelines. Under what transparent guidelines did the screening committee make the allocations on 18 and 19 June, 1999?" Sibal asked.

He listed the clear guidelines for allocation framed in 2006 by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, that included the applicants furnishing annual audited accounts for three previous years and a timeline of project implementation.

(Agencies)

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