Preliminary enquiry registered against firms that got blocks during that period, officials concerned

Expanding the scope of the investigation into the Coalgate, the Central Bureau of Investigation on Thursday began a probe into alleged irregularities in allocation of coal blocks between 1993 and 2004. It has registered a ‘preliminary enquiry’ against companies that got blocks during that period and the government officials who cleared files related to these allocations.

The probe will cover around a dozen firms that got blocks during the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance regime between 1998 and 2004, besides those allotted by the United Front government between 1996 and 1998 and the Congress government under P.V. Narasimha Rao after 1993. Till now, the CBI was investigating private companies that got blocks between 2004 and 2009. Sources in the CBI said they would approach the Coal Ministry and State governments seeking all records related to the allocations.

The CBI is covering the 1993-2004 period after the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) received complaints from some Congress MPs, forwarded by Coal Minister Shriprakash Jaiswal, alleging irregularities into allocations before 2004, particularly under the NDA rule.

The list that the CVC was forwarded by these MPs included 24 companies, some of which have got captive blocks as part of joint ventures with State governments.

Notably, allocations to private companies for captive use started in 1993 when Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973 was amended with the objective of attracting private investments in specified end uses such as power, cement and steel because of growing economy.

In its audit report on coal blocks allocation, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has mentioned that till June 2004, 39 coal blocks (net) were allotted, while 71 allocations were made between July 2004 and September 2006. However, another 142 blocks were allocated after July 2004.

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