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Coal block tension deflates

New Delhi, Jan. 12: The government is unlikely to agree to the Supreme Court’s suggestion to cancel all coal block allocations made after 2005.

A meeting was held on Friday at the Prime Minister’s Office to take stock of the apex court’s suggestion, attended by top coal and law ministry officials.

The government feels cancelling all allocations arbitrarily will attract legal cases. It would argue in favour of cancelling those allocations against which the CBI had found irregularities or the companies have not converted into mining leases within a reasonable period of time.

The coal ministry has been carrying out a massive exercise in monitoring allocations to weed out irregularities and lack of development, officials said.

Around 43 allocations have been cancelled and showcause notices have been sent to around 120 for cancelling allotments.

The government had allocated around 78 coal blocks to private steel, power and cement makers between July 1993 and October 2005 and another 34 blocks after 2005.

Another 72 blocks were given to central and state PSUs between August 2003 and February 2009, according to the coal ministry’s website.

Last week, attorney-general G.E. Vahanvati told the Supreme Court that the government could consider taking back blocks which had been given after 2005 as these were still at the allocation stage.

The Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice R.M. Lodha, gave time to the government till Wednesday to respond to the issue.

Some of the coal blocks that have been taken back are: Binani Cement’s Datima coal block in Chhattisgarh; Electrosteel and Adhunik’s North Dhadu block and Rungta Mines’ Choritand Taliya in Jharkhand; and Damodar Valley Corporation’s Kasta (East) in Bengal and Saharanpur Jamarpani (Jharkhand). These companies did not get forest or environmental clearances from the state governments.

Also on the list of cancelled blocks are Kerandari, Chatti Bariatu, Brahmini, Chichro Patsimal of NTPC and Jainagar of the Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation.

Probe progress

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is likely to file on Monday a status report on the progress made in its probe.

The CBI has been asked by the Supreme Court to probe all allotments made since 1993. The agency has so far filed 14 FIRs in connection with the alleged graft in the allocation of blocks.

On the list are AMR Iron and Steel, JLD Yavatmal Energy, Vini Iron and Steel Udyog, JAS Infrastructure Capital Pvt Ltd, Vikash Metals, Grace Industries, Gagan Sponge, Jindal Steel and Power and Rathi Steel and Power Ltd.

Jharkhand Ispat, Green Infrastructure, Kamal Sponge, Pushp Steel, Hindalco, BLA Industries, Castron Technologies and Castron Mining have also been named.

 
 
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