Lashing out at the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and the rest of the National Democratic Alliance constituents for paralysing parliamentary proceedings for a week on ‘coalgate,’ Union Minister of State for Planning and Parliamentary Affairs Ashwani Kumar on Saturday said such tactics were no solution to resolve the issue.
“The major national parties are shying away from constructive debate in Parliament. This is an extremely unfortunate and dangerous development,” said Mr. Kumar, interacting with reporters here.
He said the Central government was more than willing to debate the issue of presumptive losses, as alleged by the Opposition.
The UPA-II government disputed the findings of the CAG report that pegged the so-called loss at Rs. 1.86 lakh crore to the exchequer, said Mr. Kumar.
Out of 57 coal blocks taken for audit by the CAG, only one allottee has been able to mine the coal, commented the Minister, stating there had been no mining in 56 coal blocks for a variety of reasons, including not obtaining environmental clearance.
“Where is the loss?”
“The government has already de-notified 25 mines, while 32 allottees have been cautioned against non-action. If these blocks aren’t mined, they will return to the government. So, where is the loss?” he said.
Between 1993 and 2004, the policy of allotment through the Screening Committee was in vogue. In 2004, the UPA-I government issued instructions through advertisement, detailing the terms and conditions and eligibility criteria for allotment of coal mines.
The reason for making this information public was to aid any of the aggrieved parties to seek redress, if the allotments weren’t made as per the guidelines, noted Mr. Kumar.
The allocation had been done without bestowing undue favours, he said, adding that no private players had gained in the affair.
He further pointed that in 2005, non-UPA States Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Odisha and Rajasthan opposed the UPA government’s move to bring forth legislation in the auction process.
“In 2008, the draft Bill was formulated, which went to the Standing Committee. In 2010, the Standing Committee asked us to return and talk to the State governments. All these processes took time. The delay was neither deliberate nor intentional. It was intended to put the law on a sound footing,” Mr. Kumar said.
There was no question of any opportunity cost being lost, he pointed out, buttressing the fact that the country had experienced a five-fold increase in its total power capacity between the 10th and 11th Five Year Plan period.