Frantic search for coal files as Ministries throw in the towel

Coal Ministry, Prime Minister’s Office go into a tizzy.

Updated - November 16, 2021 09:26 pm IST

Published - August 19, 2013 11:20 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

As the heat turned on the UPA-II government inside and outside Parliament over missing files and records of coal allocation, the Coal Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office have gone into a tizzy as “urgent directions” have been issued to a number of Ministries to trace the documents.

However, many of the departments and Ministries have thrown in the towel.

The Supreme Court is monitoring the probe into Coalgate.

The Hindu on August 17 reported that a large number of files, documents and records pertaining to allocation of 45 coal blocks during 1993-2005, 157 applications by private companies and a number of records of the Screening Committee had gone missing from the Coal Ministry and the PMO.

Interestingly, the (coal allocation) CA-II section, which keeps records, informed the Ministry even on May 9, 2013 that files sought for PE 219/2012 E 2004, being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation, could not be located and these would be searched in other sections which were dealing with allocation of coal blocks before 2006. CA-II started handling coal allocation records only after 2006.

In reply to a CBI query on April 10, seeking files pertaining to the PE 219/2012 E 2004, CA-II Director S.K. Shahi wrote: “Efforts were made to locate these applications in the existing CA-1 section. However, the same could not be located. Earlier coal block allocation work was being looked after by the CPA/CPAM section during 1993-2002, CA section during 2003-05 and CA-I from 2006 onwards. The Administration section is requested to carry out a thorough search in the different sections of the Ministry, including the record room.”In fact, two files pertaining to the Screening Committee meetings of 1990 and 1993 have gone missing. Now, the Director (Administration) has been asked to get the files traced from the Ministry’s records kept in Shastri Bhavan/Lok Nayak Bhawan or state-owned Coal India Limited office.

Similarly, in the case of the 26th Screening Committee meeting file records, the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited (CMPDI) has informed the Search Committee, working under Additional Secretary (Coal) A.K. Dubey that it did not have a copy of the minutes. On the other hand, CIL has not replied to a query by the Search Committee, which also decided to write to the Ministries of Steel and Law and Justice and the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) seeking records from them. In fact, records of the 35th Screening Committee, including those pertaining to allocation of the Seregarha block to GVK Power are not traceable by the Coal Ministry. Now the Search Committee has referred the matter to the Power Ministry. The Power Ministry has also been directed to find files of applicants who were unsuccessful in getting coal blocks — 157 cases. “Some of the records of allocation have been kept in the Laxmi Nagar office of CIL. These boxes are kept in a vertical position and it would be difficult to open them. The Director (Administration) has been asked to coordinate the entire operation with CIL to keep all boxes in a horizontal position and in [the] proper sequence. They have been asked to clean up the entire record room to facilitate search,” a senior official said.

The PMO has also launched a frantic search for the missing documents and files pertaining to the period after 2004 as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in charge of the Coal Ministry thereafter.

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