|Manmohan Singh, Nitish Kumar
Patna, June 30: The Union coal ministry has rejected Bihar’s demand for coal linkage for the expansion of the Barauni Thermal Power Station (BTPS), dealing a body blow to the government’s efforts to increase production in the electricity-starved state.
The decision is also a setback for chief minister Nitish Kumar, who had taken up the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Union power ministry headed by Sushilkumar Shinde.
An “enraged” Nitish, who has extended support to the UPA’s presidential nominee Pranab Mukherjee, today fired a letter to the Prime Minister demanding his “personal intervention” against the “arbitrary” ways of the coal ministry, which, he complained, “has never been positive to our demand in the past”.
“It is a matter of great disappointment that the ministry of coal has failed to appreciate the sensitivity of the issue and has summarily rejected the demand raised in the all-party memorandum submitted to you. I request you to kindly intervene personally in the matter ensuring grant of coal linkage to BTPS’s expansion project on priority basis,” the chief minister has written in the letter.
Nitish had taken an all-party delegation to the Prime Minister on April 6 requesting for dedicated coal linkage to the two units of 500 MW (250 MW each) being added as part of the expansion of the “ailing” BTPS. The BTPS has virtually gone moribund with its two existing units (110 MW each) non-functional. The state government — which owns BTPS — has entrusted BHEL to carry out the renovation and modernisation of the two old units, which have coal linkage.
Union coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, through his letter to the chief minister dated June 20, has rejected the demand for linkage. “As linkage amounting to 80,000 MW for the 12th plan already existed, there was no scope for awarding any further linkage for the projects, including BTPS’s expansion project,” the letter says by way of explanation.
Jaiswal has, however, pleaded that certain coal blocks had been identified for allocation for which the terms and conditions were being finalised.
Sources close to Nitish said he was “aghast” at the manner in which the coal ministry had dealt with the issue taken up at the “highest (PM’s)” level. Nitish, a source said, has pointed out that the delegation he took to the Prime Minister in April “had returned with the impression that the matter would be appropriately addressed at your (PM’s) level”.
What has “shocked” Nitish, the sources added, is also the fact that power minister Shinde had inspected the existing projects in the state in March, even recommending to coal minister Jaiswal linkage for BTPS’s expansion project as a “special case… in mitigating power shortage in Bihar”.