BJP demands SC probe into coal block allotment

The BJP has demanded a Supreme Court-monitored enquiry into the allotment on 73 coal blocks to 143 private companies since 2006, saying that the government rushed to allot these blocks just before an amendment recommending auctions was approved by Parliament.

BJP MPs Hansraj Ahir and Prakash Javadekar said, “The government introduced the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill in 2006, which proposed auction instead of free allotment on first come first serve basis. A rush followed and the government which should have stopped the allotment till the successful passage of the Bill, instead surreptiously gifted coal blocks to private parties in the interregnum.”

They added that the Bill was finally cleared in 2010, but “during those four years, 73 coal blocks were allotted to 143 private companies, with 17 billion metric tonnes of reserves worth Rs. 51 lakh crore.”

“The going rate, as alleged by business circles is Rs. 50 per metric tonnes, therefore more than Rs. 85, 000 crore changed hands during the four year coal scam,” said Ahir. “What’s more, only 2 out of these 143 companies have started production,” he added.

The party said that they would be raising this issue in Parliament and specifically targeted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as the coal ministry, after former minister Shibu Soren’s resignation in 2006 was being handled by the PM himself.
“In the 2G scam, the Prime Minister had the fig leaf of hiding behind A Raja. Now he has no such cover,” said Javadekar.

The government passed amendments to the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 or the MMDR Act proposing auction of all future coal blocks to improve realizations for it as well as put in place a transparent mechanism for allocation of coal blocks. The auction process is yet to start as the coal ministry is still to finalise the rules and regulations giving effect to the amendments.

As of now, captive coal blocks are offered to companies by a screening committee headed by the coal secretary. The process goes on the principle of first-come-first-serve while evaluating the development plan to companies. Several allegations have been made against the process due to its lack of transparency.

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