By BS Reporter
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)’s report on the allocation of coal blocks reveals two companies, Strategic Energy Tech Systems (a joint venture between Tata Steel and Sasoi Synfuel International) and Jindal Steel and Power, were awarded coal blocks one working day before the Election Commission of India’s notification for the 2009 general elections.
The coal blocks were allocated on February 27, 2009, while the Election Commission’s notification for the 14th Lok Sabha elections was released on March 2, 2009.
The two companies were awarded coal blocks with extractable reserves of about 1,650 million tones, about 26 per cent of the reserves whose allocation has come under the scrutiny of the audit report. The two blocks allocated are located in Odisha. While Jindal Steel and Power was allocated the Ramchandi block, the Tata joint venture was allocated the Arkhapal block in Odisha.
In 2009, the Government had kick-started the process of amending the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Bill. The Bill proposed auctioning of mineral resources, including coal mines, through bidding, as recommended by CAG in its report.
After the elections, with the United Progressive Alliance government back in power by May 20, the coal ministry again allocated more blocks to private companies. Companies allocated blocks in May 2009 included Tata Steel, Rungta Mines, Kohinoor Steel and Adhunik Thermal Energy, while those allocated coal blocks in June and July 2009 included JSW, Gujarat Ambuja and Lafarge.