Ministerial panel to decide fate of 17 blocks

Last Updated: Thu, Aug 30, 2012 19:30 hrs

An inter-ministerial panel under the coal ministry will decide the fate of allocation of 17 captive coal blocks allotted to big corporate houses, next week. This is on the back of severe delays in their development. This comes close on the heels of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigating the alleged corruption in allocation of blocks.

The coal ministry had recently issued showcause notices to the companies, which own the mining rights of the 17 blocks allocated between 2006 and 2009. Through the notices, the ministry had threatened the companies of cancelling their allotments and sought justifications for the delay. The 17 blocks are among the 57 blocks, where delays were identified by a review committee earlier this year.

“The companies have furnished their replies explaining the reasons for the delay. These replies will be considered by the inter-ministerial group in its meeting next week to see whether or not to cancel the allocations,” coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said. “A final decision will, however, be taken by me,” he added. The minister was responding to a media report that said the coal ministry was looking at cancelling allocation of 53 blocks for delays.

The inter-ministerial panel is being headed by Zohra Chatterjee, additional secretary, in the coal ministry. The companies that were issued showcause notices in May include, Reliance Power Ltd, JSW Steel, Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL), Arcelor Mittal, GVK Power, Monnet Ispat and Energy Ltd and Rungta Mines.

CBI focuses on 12 firms
With just two days left for it to decide on filing FIRs in the coalgate scam, the CBI is focusing its probe on 12 firms which were given licenses under the 'fast track' category but had not yet commenced mining of the allocated coal blocks.

The furore over the issue of alleged corruption in coal block allocations picked up pace after the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in its recent report said the allocation of 54 blocks through the screening committee route led to financial gains totaling a whopping Rs 1.8 lakh crore to private companies. The government has contested the claim arguing no production from the blocks meant no loss to the exchequer.

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