The government’s high-level Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) on review of captive coal block development met today, amid unconfirmed reports that the finance ministry had raised doubts over the panel’s authority to recommend cancellation of allocations. The coal ministry said more sittings would be required for a final decision on the controversial matter.
Industry sources indicated the IMG today decided to recommend cancellation of allocation for at least five blocks, without naming the blocks or the companies concerned. A member of the IMG refused to confirm the information, saying discussions on the matter are still on.
“The IMG is reviewing the blocks on a case-to-case basis. Around seven blocks were discussed today. Another meeting of the group will take place soon to further deliberate on the matter,” a senior ministry official told Business Standard. The IMG is currently deciding on whether to recommend cancellation of allocation from among the 29 blocks held by private companies.
The IMG is taking into account the status reports prepared by theministry’s Coal Controller Organization (CCO). The CCO was asked to provide the status paper for each case, including the history of previous reviews and action taken in each case. The legal implications of recommending cancellation of block allocations has made the panel adopt a cautious approach in the matter.
It has held four meetings beginning September 6. The group has to review the progress of 58 block allottees, issued showcause notices for delay. IMG is yet to begin reviewing the 29 blocks held by public sector companies. Among those reviewed are Monnet Ispat & Energy Ltd, Usha Martin, Jayaswal Neco, Electrosteel Casting Ltd, Neelachal Iron & Steel Ltd, Reliance Power, Jindal Power Ltd, Tata Sponge, ArcelorMittal, GVK Power & Infrastructure and Bhushan Steel.
The review comes amid the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party highlighting that the Prime Minister’s Office had in April expressed its displeasure at the inordinate delay in cancelling the blocks where no genuine reasons for delay were found. Companies that have so far presented their cases had blamed the hassles of obtaining clearances and land acquisition for the delays.
A final decision on cancellation of blocks would be taken by Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal based on the recommendations of the IMG.
The coal ministry has allocated a total of 195 blocks with reserves running into 45 billion tonnes since 1993. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has already filed cases against five companies for making false claims for getting blocks awarded.