The inter-ministerial group (IMG) set up to probe delay in production by captive coal miners today concluded its three-day interaction with 28 private companies. In the next round of meetings, the group would ask officials from 30 government-owned utilities to explain the delay in production.
In all, the group would quiz officials from 58 companies issued showcause notices by the coal ministry, threatening cancellation of the allocations. A decision on the cancellation of blocks would be taken by Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, based on the recommendations of the IMG, headed by Zohra Chatterjee, additional secretary in the coal ministry.
Today, officials from about 10 companies, which account for eight coal blocks, presented their case before the IMG. The companies include Tata Iron & Steel, JSW Steel, Bihar Sponge, Maharashtra Seamless, Grasim Industries, IST Steel & Power, Gujarat Ambuja Cements, Lafarge India and SKS Ispat. Officials from most companies that presented their cases to the IMG have blamed hurdles in securing clearances, as well as the land acquisition process, for the delay.
The IMG is scheduled to submit its report by September 15. This report would recommend the cancellation of blocks for which delays aren’t justified. This comes against the backdrop of Opposition parties demanding all the 142 allocations by the government since 2004 be scrapped and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh resign over the alleged multi-crore coal allocation scam.(COAL FIRE)
“We have to secure at least 26 different kinds of clearances before the block starts production. We plan to produce coal from our block by August 2014,” S C Jain, Director, IST Steel & Power said after his presentation to the IMG. “Our end-use plant to make steel is already in operation,” he added. The company was recently in the news, as former corporate affairs minister Prem Chand Gupta’s son Gaurav Gupta is a director in the company.
In June 2009, the company, along with Gujarat Ambuja Cements and Lafarge India, was allocated the Dahegaon Makardhokra coal block in Maharashtra. It was targeted production at the block would begin December 2013. The forest clearance for the block had been applied for in November 2011 and its mining plan has already been approved.
Officials from SKS Ispat and Power also met members of the IMG today. Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai’s brother held the post of honorary director in the company.
Officials from Maharashtra Seamless and Kesoram Industries also presented their cases, in connection with the Gondkhari block allotted to the two companies in November 2008. Production at the block is expected to begin by November.
So far, officials from Monnet Ispat & Energy, Usha Martin, Jayaswal Neco, Electrosteel Casting, Neelachal Iron & Steel, Reliance Power, Jindal Power, Tata Sponge, ArcelorMittal, GVK Power & Infrastructure and Bhushan Steel have met the IMG members.
Since 1993, the coal ministry has allocated 195 blocks, with reserves of about 45 billion tonnes. On Tuesday, the Central Bureau of Investigation had filed cases against five companies for false claims for securing blocks.
BJP should ask its CMs to resign: Sibal
Stepping up its offensive against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the government said the Opposition party should ask its chief ministers to resign in the Coalgate row since state governments decide who gets the mining lease.
“The basic question is that who executes the lease,” Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said, two days after the Centre made public letters written to it by BJP and other non-Congress state chief ministers strongly opposing auction of coal mines.
He said that if anyone should resign it should be the chief ministers of these states. BJP has been demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Coalgate row.