Their claim may shift CBI focus

The focus of the CBI probe could soon turn towards the States and their officials as a majority of the companies presenting their case before the Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) have blamed the State governments for the hold-up in coalmines development.

Sources in the government said officials of the companies pointed the finger at the procrastinating tactics of the States and their officials, leading to tardiness in giving clearances. Thus work on the coalmines was impacted, they said. “The officials of these companies told IMG members that they had to face a lot of hurdles at the State levels, including environment clearances and acquisition of land, as well as related clearances. There was also an indirect reference to corruption in the State government wings,” the sources added.

The CBI has already lodged five FIRs on Coalgate, including against unnamed State government officials. It is understood that the investigating agency will pick up information from the IMG meetings in probing the role of certain officials who were instrumental in recommending coal blocks to some firms with a questionable reputation and giving them various clearances, including financial. What has emerged during the meetings at the IMG is that the major issue was with forest clearances at the State level. “We heard them and their grievances. Some of the concerns raised by them were genuine and actually happening at the State level. Some other issues raised by them were only tactics to mislead the IMG into believing that the companies had done no wrong,” said a senior Coal Ministry official.

Private sector firms ArcelorMittal, DB Power, Jindal Steel and Power, GVK, Tata Sponge Iron, Reliance Power and Bhushan Steel and some others appeared before the IMG on Friday. The IMG, which sent show-cause notices to allottees of at least 35 blocks for the disruption in development of mines, has called them in the order of mines allotment. It is likely that many of the companies could face de-allocation, as replies filed by them are hardly convincing, and aimed at providing misleading information.

The issues raised during the IMG meetings are also likely to be studied by the CBI, which is investigating various companies and officials alleged to have provided misleading facts and fraudulent information on the firms, their assets, experience and joint venture tie-ups.