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Jaiswal allotted 35 coal blocks without screening

Hansraj Ahir, MP, has written to PM about this, but is yet to receive a reply.

NAVTAN KUMAR  NEW DELHI | 26th Aug 2012

Coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal. REUTERS

oal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal has allocated 35 coal blocks without clearance from the screening committee since 2009. His insistence that due process was followed is incorrect.

According to Hansraj Ahir, a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on coal and steel, no meeting of the screening committee was held after 2008. The Ministry of Coal thereby not only bypassed the auction option, but also departed from the existing system of allocation through the screening committee.

Soon after the Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG's) report on coal block allocation was tabled in Parliament, Jaiswal claimed that allocations were made by the screening committee, which, he said, consisted of officials from seven ministries, including forest and railways, besides coal.

Ahir said, "The last screening committee meeting was held in 2008. But the government cleared 35 blocks after that. This clearly smacks of a major irregularity. I have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in this regard. But so far I have not got any response from him."

In his letter dated 20 August 2012, Ahir says, "the mandatory condition of the sanction of the Screening Committee for the allotment of the coal blocks was also violated by the ministry and it has been informed that as many as 35 coal blocks have been allotted to private companies without sanction of the Screening Committee".

"It may be noted that no meeting of the Screening Committee has been held by the ministry from 2008 and the allotment of the blocks was done without holding of the meeting. The government and the ministry has indulged in the financial crime and this has fetched loss to the government," the letter adds.

It may be noted that no meeting of the Screening Committee has been held by the ministry from 2008 and the allotment of the blocks was done without holding of the meeting

It further says: "Considering the loss to the government and the violation of the government norms for sanction and allotment of the coal blocks the government needs to cancel the above said blocks and auction them freshly. So I request you to take immediate steps in the matter..."

It was Ahir's complaint to the Chief Vigilance Commissioner which formed the basis of a CBI investigation into the coal scam, which according to the CAG's estimates, is to the tune of Rs 1.86 lakh crore.

Another Parliamentary Standing Committee member P.N. Singh said, "We had raised the issue in several meetings and were told by the officials that there was no meeting of the screening committee after 2008." Standing Committee chairman Kalyan Banerjee admitted that the issue was raised during one of the meetings. But he refused to divulge the details.

"The screening committee, headed by the coal secretary, was a broad-based body with representation from state governments at the level of the chief secretaries, ministries concerned of the Central government and the coal companies. The procedure adopted for allocation involved wide consultations with all the stakeholders," Jaiswal had said.

 
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