The State Government on Monday ordered a judicial inquiry into coal imports for the Raichur Thermal Power Station (RTPS) over a period of seven years, commencing from 2002.
Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who made some shocking revelations relating to coal purchases and transportation of indigenously mined coal from some mines in Orissa, said in the Legislative Assembly that a retired judge of the High Court would conduct a probe and submit a report to the Government.
Replying to the three-day special discussion on agriculture and rural development, the Chief Minister said: “the Government has preferred a judicial inquiry in the light of malpractices and misuse of public funds which have come to light. Even in the purchase of indigenous coal, although there is a rail link from Orissa to Raichur, the coal was transported by sea from the Paradip port to Chennai and thereafter carried by rail to Raichur, a detour of nearly 350 km.”
Mr. Yeddyurappa said the large quantity of coal purchased for the RTPS was also washed, a procedure that cost the Government nearly Rs. 500 crore every year (a total of Rs. 3,500 crore). All this needed to be probed as it involved public money. The same set of companies had been engaged for seven years in washing coal for the RTPS. “I do not want to say anything more, and it is for the judicial commission to inquire into. The presiding officer for the inquiry will be named shortly and the terms of references will also be announced,” the Chief Minister said.
Mr. Yeddyurappa said that a few weeks before his Government took charge, the Karnataka Power Corporation Limited floated tenders for import of six lakh tonnes of coal. Thereafter, the Government gave a direct order to MMTC (a Government of India company) to supply coal and this was challenged in the Supreme Court. The Government then floated tenders again.
With reference to recent coal purchases, Mr. Yeddyurappa said that 17 States were paying much more than what Karnataka did. The State was now paying Rs. 4,180 per tonne while Andhra Pradesh was paying Rs. 5,550 and Tamil Nadu Rs. 4,880. Following the electricity shortage and the comparatively low water storage in the hydel reservoirs during the last season, the Union Government had called upon the States to go in for coal imports as per their requirements.
The Government had also ordered an inquiry by the Lokayukta into the issue of ration cards for below the poverty line (BPL) families following complaints that the really poor were not being benefited under the scheme and that there was diversion of grain meant for PDS.
Mr. Yeddyurappa said that the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, the Chairman of the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission and the Lokayukta, while participating in a programme recently, had referred to the BPL scheme. Hence, the Government had thought it fit to request the Lokayukta to conduct a probe.