Kumar Mangalam Birla leaves after meeting finance minister P. Chidambaram in New Delhi on Friday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, Oct. 18: Kumar Mangalam Birla, head of $40-billion textiles-to-mining conglomerate Aditya Birla Group, today said he was not perturbed by the CBI report filed against him in an alleged coal scam.
“I have done nothing wrong. I am not worried about the FIR,” Birla said after meeting finance minister P. Chidambaram here today.
Chidambaram and commerce minister Anand Sharma have been asked by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to reach out to India Inc, which has been rattled by the FIR against Birla and a whistle-blower bureaucrat.
Birla group firm Hindalco had been awarded a share in a coal mine in Odisha’s Ib Valley to fire aluminium smelters in the state around eight years ago. However, the company has not been able to mine coal because of bureaucratic red tape.
“I obviously brought this (the FIR) up with the FM. So many other things to talk about. Work goes on. We are in so many other industries. There are so many other things to discuss with him,” Birla said.
Finance ministry officials said Chidambaram gave a patient hearing to Birla and assured him that nothing would be done outside the scope of the due process of law.
Hindalco was awarded a 15 per cent share of the Talabira II coal block, while state-run Mahanadi Coalfields and Neyveli Lignite Corporation Ltd were given the remaining 85 per cent.
The CBI has alleged that Birla was favoured at the expense of Neyveli Lignite.
However, data show that Neyveli was allotted adequate coal to run its planned 1,000 mega watt power plant.
Hindalco was given the small share after the Odisha government made out a case for the company before the allotment committee. It was argued that the proposed aluminium smelter would add to the state’s revenues and create thousands of jobs in an impoverished district. State recommendations play a crucial role in coal block allocations.
However, the CBI has maintained that Hindalco might have manipulated the allocation process in its favour.
Hindalco points out that the initial pleas for a share in the coal mine, which is with the company only on paper because the central and state departments are yet to give various clearances, were made by Indal — the Indian arm of Canadian miner Alcan — though it followed up the proposal after buying out Alcan’s stake in the aluminium firm.
Hindalco has said in a statement, “Every process required for coal allocation in line with government regulations were completely followed.”
Meanwhile, former coal secretary P.C. Parakh, pulled up along with Birla, has failed to explain the reasons for alloting the coal block to Hindalco after rejecting it earlier, the CBI today claimed amid indications that the agency would register fresh cases soon.