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PMO pushes for mine purge

New Delhi, Sept. 1 (PTI): The Centre has set deadline of September 15 to initiate action on de-allocation of coal mines to many of the 58 allottees who have been issued show-cause notices.

Pushed by an upset Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the coal ministry has swung into action to expedite the process of de-allocating the blocks ahead of the Inter-Ministerial Group meeting scheduled for Monday to consider the issue.

According to sources, the coal ministry decided to complete the entire exercise by September 15 in all cases where show-cause notices were issued.

The PMO conveyed its displeasure to the coal ministry over inaction in cancelling the blocks where mining has not taken place. The PMO had in April asked the ministry to review the cases of all blocks where production is yet to start.

Notices were issued in April to 58 blocks, including 25 private firms such as Tata Power, ArcelorMittal, Reliance Power, Hindalco, Grasim Industries and GVK Power.

The coal ministry swung into action just ahead of the meeting on Monday of the Inter-Ministerial Group, which it expects to do due diligence at a faster pace and record all specific reasons for recommending de-allocation of the blocks.

Specific focus is on two blocks allotted to Usha Martin and Congress MP Naveen Jindal’s Jindal Steel and Power (JSPL).

The Inter-Ministerial Group has representatives from, among others, the steel, power, law, economic affairs and mines ministries.

According to coal ministry officials, a good number of these 58 blocks are among those mentioned in the CAG report.

The government auditor, in its recent report, stated that undue benefits to the tune of Rs 1.86 lakh crore were extended to private firms on account of allocation of 57 mines to them.

The CBI is also probing criminality in 12 firms which were given licences under the “fast track” category but did not commence mining. The PMO push came amid the storm raging over Union tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahay, who is facing the heat from the BJP over allocation of a coal block to his brother’s firm in Jharkhand.

Sahay today refused to comment on the issue, saying he has already stated his stand on the matter. “I have already said what I had to say,” Sahay, who was in Mumbai, told reporters.

The minister had yesterday rubbished the allegations, terming them a “bunch of lies”.