Bhubaneswar, Feb. 5: Union coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal today said the Centre would put utmost priority on allocating coal blocks in favour of Odisha if it took part in the bidding for allotment of five new coal blocks in Talcher.
However, Odisha’s aim to get back the de-allocated coal block looks bleak. The state government had written letters to the Centre, demanding re-allocation of the de-allocated coal blocks. Jaiswal also made it clear that the blocks that had already been de-allocated would not be re-allocated.
“The coal ministry has no role in de-allocating the coal blocks. As the inter-ministerial group has decided on the de-allocation of coal blocks, we cannot do anything, particularly in the re-allocation of the de-allocated blocks. They must have some reasons to de-allocate the coal blocks. The de-allocation of coal block is linked to performance criteria,” he said.
However, Odisha steel and mines minister Rajanikant Singh said: “The Centre is not in favour of industrialisation in Odisha. While it allowed re-allocation of the de-allocated coal blocks for the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), it ignored the interests of Odisha.”
Reacting to minister’s remarks, Jaiswal said: “We had made a commitment to the NTPC but had never given similar assurance to the Odisha government.”
Earlier, the coal ministry had de-allocated three coal blocks — Utkal-D, Mandakini-B and Radhikapur-E — allocated to the Odisha Mining Corporation and the Odisha Hydro Power Corporation on the ground that no step had been taken to develop them.
Jaiswal said the ministry would specially consider the case of Odisha if it took part in bidding for in for allotment of five new coal blocks located in the state. The Odisha government has applied for bidding process for four coal blocks except the Baitrani coal block.
The coal ministry has put five coal blocks — Kudanali-Laburi, Sarapal-Napara, Tentuloi, Chandrabila and Brahmani — in the Talcher coalfield for tenders till February 8. Jaiswal also said there was no scam in coal sector, including that of allocation of coal blocks.
“There is no scam in the coal sector. Coal blocks have been allocated since 1993 under certain principles. The previous NDA government had allocated 43 coal blocks during its tenure,” he said.
He further said, as Coal India Limited alone could not meet the growing demands of coal, private players should be allowed into the field.
“The government allocated coal blocks to private players as done by previous governments,” he said. On being asked whether the CBI was going slow on its inquiry into the alleged favour shown by the Odisha Mining Corporation to the Delhi-based Sainik Farm, the minister said: “I cannot comment on the CBI’s investigation process.”