Kanpur: Dismissing allegations of corruption against the Prime Minister levelled by Team Anna, Union Coal Minister Sri Prakash Jaiswal on Sunday said all decisions on allocation of coal blocks were taken with the consent of the state governments in a transparent manner. (Agencies)
"Not a single coal block has been alloted without the consent of the state government. And not only this, the committee through which the coal blocks are allocated has a chief secretary level officer from the concerned state as its member," the Minister told reporters here.
"Doubts have been raised by certain quarters regarding allocation of coal blocks to private companies for captive use.... The blocks were allocated on the basis of recommendation of the screening committee which had acted in an unbiased and transparent manner," he said Attacking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Team Anna on Saturday cited portions of a draft CAG report to make charges against him when Coal Ministry was with him. They had never made allegations against the Prime Minister before.
Jaiswal said that between 1993 and 2009, the then governments had felt that to meet the growing power demand, coal blocks should be allocated in the private sector also as "Coal India Ltd alone would not be able to meet the growing demand".
"The country's mineral resources are being used for the people's benefit, so how can you call it a scam," he said while replying to queries on Team Anna's allegations, adding he was not responding to allegations of any group but was only trying to clear doubts raised on coal block allocation.
Noting that the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had understood the need for using coal available in the country, he said, "I want to congratulate the Prime Minister... Had the coal blocks not been allocated, we would have been forced to import coal and drain our foreign exchange."
The Coal Ministry said, "The allocation of coal blocks was never looked upon as a potential source for generating revenue for the Central Government...Hence the question of maximizing revenue does not arise at all."
Allocation of coal blocks to private companies for captive use commenced in 1993 after the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973 was amended. This was done to attract private investments in specified end uses, it said.
Initially there was not much demand for such allocation, but as the economy grew, the demand for coal also grew, particularly in the energy sector, the Ministry said.
"It was felt that Coal India Ltd alone would not be able to meet the growing demand and, therefore, the option of giving a bigger role to the private sector was explored. It is in this background that we should appreciate the reasons for allocation of coal blocks to private parties for captive use during this period," it said.
The idea of making allocations through competitive bidding was mooted in 2004 and in the following year the government initiated a proposal to amend the 1973 Act.
The delay of three years between initiating the process of legislative changes and introducing the amendment Bill in Parliament was mainly due to absence of consensus among various stakeholders and the amendment Bill was finally introduced in 2008, it said.
In the meanwhile, keeping in view the increase in applicants for coal blocks, the government evolved a consolidated set of guidelines to ensure consistency in allocation, the ministry noted.
"In September 2005 the system was further improved bringing in greater transparency. In the improved system applications were invited through open advertisements against an identified list of coal blocks," it said.
The intent of the government, the statement said, was to involve the private sector to invest in identified infrastructure sectors in the interest of the country and its economy and, to this end, this developmental process was resorted to.
"The allocation of coal blocks to private sector companies is only for captive use and not for sale or commercial use of coal.
"Since the blocks are allocated to private companies only for captive purposes for the specified end-use, the question of linking the blocks to the market price/CIL price of coal does not arise at all," it added.
The Budget session of Parliament, which ended on May 22, saw a strong demand by the Opposition for laying of the CAG report. The Left demand a JPC probe into the alleged scam.
Team Anna members on Saturday clubbed the Prime Minister and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee with 13 other Cabinet Ministers, whom they accused of corruption. The anti-graft group had never made allegations against the Prime Minister earlier.
Kanpur: Dismissing allegations of corruption against the Prime Minister levelled by Team Anna, Union Coal Minister Sri Prakash Jaiswal on Sunday said all decisions on allocation of coal blocks were taken with the consent of the state governments in a transparent manner.