While the UPA government allotted a coal mine to Aditya Birla Group firm Hindalco on his recommendation, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s similar petition to NDA government too had resulted in a mine being allocated to Naveen Jindal-led Jindal Steel and Power.
Mr. Patnaik, who had in August 2005 recommended to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh allocation of Talabira II mine to Hindalco, had on June 22, 2002 written to the then Coal and Mines Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for allotment of the Utkal B-1 mine to JSPL by cancelling an earlier allotment of the coal block to Talcher Mining.
Like in the case of Hindalco, the Coal Ministry agreed and allocated the mine to JSPL.
“Since allotment of Utkal B-1 coal block is very vital for setting up the sponge iron/steel plant in the state, I would request your personal intervention in the matter and consider the allotment of Utkal B-1 coal block in favour of Jindal Steel & Power Ltd (JSPL) on cancelling the prior allotment to Talcher Mining Pvt Ltd,” Mr. Patnaik had written to Prasad.
The Utkal B-1 coal block in Talcher coalfields of Odisha was alloted to Naveen Jindal-led JSPL in September 2003 when NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in power.
When contacted, Mr. Prasad said, “A recommendation came from the Chief Minister and to the best of my knowledge, the allotment of coal block made to the earlier allottee was cancelled as the company did not start production within the stipulated time. Everything was done fairly.”
“The crucial consideration is of fake coal block allocations,” he told PTI, adding that no comparison can be made between this case and Hindalco.
He wanted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to respond to other coal block allocations which the CBI is now probing under Supreme Court monitoring as he has acknowledged being the “competent authority”.
CBI is probing alleged irregularities in allotment of Talabira II and Talabira III mines to Hindalco and has registered case against the firm Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and former coal secretary P.C. Parakh.
With Opposition seeking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s resignation as he held the coal portfolio when the allotment to Hindalco was made, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in a detailed statement acknowledged Mr. Patnaik’s recommendation.
Mr. Patnaik in the June 2002 letter to Prasad said that to meet the captive requirement of its proposed plants, JSPL had requested for allotment of the mine.
The mine in question, he said, had already been allotted by the Screening Committee of Coal Ministry to Talcher Mining Pvt Ltd in July 1997 for a proposed power plant of Videocon in Tamil Nadu.
“But due to inordinate delay in implementation of the said power project, the screening committee...set a deadline of January 31, 2002 for the company to resolve all the issues and a stipulation that non-compliance would lead to automatic cancellation of coal block allotted to Talcher Mining Pvt Ltd,” he said in the letter, a copy of which was available with PTI.
It further said that JSPL has come up with a proposal to set up a one million tonnes of sponge iron project at Deojhar in Keonjhar district and a 100 MW power plant at Talcer in Angul district with an investment of around Rs. 1,000 crore in the first phase.
The company has also a proposal for expansion of capacity and setting up a steel plant and a rolling mill with one million tonnes per annum of capacity after successful completion of phase-I, it added.
“Jindal Steel and Power Ltd are very keen to implement their project within a definite time frame,” it said.
However, the Coal Ministry had in June, this year issued show cause notice to JSPL for delaying the production from Utkal-B-1 coal block.
The Coal Ministry had also in June, 2011 issued a warning letter to the company for delaying the development of mine and had directed it to develop it immediately, failing which action, including de-allocation of would be taken.