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Coal letters surface to haunt CM

Bhubaneswar, Sept. 1: Two missives that Naveen Patnaik had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh regarding coal block allocation have landed the chief minister in further trouble.

Apart from recommending the Jindal Power and Steel Limitied, Naveen had also urged the Centre to allocate coal blocks to the Hindalco Industries Limited for its plant in Odisha.

Patnaik had written two letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting him to allocate coal blocks to Hindalco Industries of the Aditya Birla Group on August 17, 2005 and December 14, 2009. Copies of the letters are with The Telegraph.

Odisha government has been on a defensive on the issue of coal block allotment with documents suggesting that it had opposed the system of competitive bidding of coal blocks. It had also recommended at least two private companies for coal block allotment.

Naveen had claimed that his government had been urging the Centre in favour of competitive bidding.

The issue of allotment of coal blocks has stirred a nation-wide controversy with the CAG report stating that there has been a loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore because of coal block allocation between 2005 and 2009.

In his letter to the Prime Minister on August 17, 2005, Naveen had said: “The Hindalco Industries would set up an integrated aluminium company, which includes one million tonne per annum aluminium refinery plant and two lakh tonne per annum aluminium smelter plant and a captive power plant. As coal is required for the industries, it should be given allotment of another coal block.”

In another letter on December 14, 2009, Naveen had stated that the company had so far been allocated Talabira 1 and II coal blocks which did not contain reserves enough to meet the demand of the captive power plant (CPP) over a life period of 30 years.

“I would recommend allocation of the Tangaradia coal block with a reserve of 171 million tonne in the IB Valley in favour of the industries for its additional requirement of coal,” he had said.

Arguing for the coal block, Naveen had said: “Odisha, while contributing to the nation, is also keen to promote smelter facility with the state as they enable higher value addition and consequence generation of revenue and employment.”

Union minister for chemical and fertilisers Srikant Jena had disputed the state government’s stand and had released two letters — one written by the then industries secretary and the other by Naveen himself.