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'Is Chidambaram ready to cancel coal mines allocation?'

Last updated on: August 24, 2012 23:00 IST

The United Progressive Alliance government in its robust defence has rubbished Comptroller and Auditor General's charges against the allotment of coal mines and its estimate of losses to the exchequer.

The CAG claimed that wrong policy was adopted in allotment of natural resources that led to a whopping loss of Rs 1.85 lakh crore.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram, wearing a dry grin, told the media on Friday, "The notion of this presumptive loss is flawed."

He said, "If the coal is not being mined, there is no question of gain or loss."

Union Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal went a step further and said that the CAG is talking about 57 coal mines, but out of those only one coal mine was explored.

Chidambaram added emphatically, "As long as the coal remains in the mother earth, there is no loss."

Is this a truth or merely a fact?

The answers of the government brought out only "half-truths", say the expert of the coal industry.

The coal mines are, already, allotted and the coal is technically given to the private parties. Some of them made money as soon as they got the allotment letter.

By allocation one does not mean the "intent of allocation" -- the mines are actually allocated.

Also, the money is not made in "excavation"; but, the government doesn't have any chance to avoid incurring losses, as suggested by the CAG, if the mines are explored by the parties who have got the allotment in their favour.

While explaining the hidden weaknesses of the government's defence, India Against Corruption member Arvind Kejriwal says, "Government's arguments in their defence are pure lies. We want to ask a simple question to Chidambaram. You are saying there is no loss to the government. Then, is Chidambaram ready to cancel the allotment of coal mines? Since he is saying that the coal is with the government, he should retain the coal legally by canceling the allotment of coal mines."

Kejriwal adds, "It is not true that there is no loss due to government's scam-tainted allotment. We should ask Chidambaram and Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, who has the rights to explore coal mines? Is it still with the original receiver of allotments? Have they sold their rights to mine coal to any third party? Have they made money in the process?"

Kejriwal also says that the companies who benefited from allotment of coal mines by the government, directly or indirectly, has made money in the stock market, too, as the value of their share went up due to possession of coal blocks.

Kejriwal says this is dangerous that in spite of no production of coal they made money. "The country didn't get coal, but the private companies made profit in the stock markets because of the favours of the government".

However, Kejriwal agrees that in the coal scam, as much as Congress, states governments of Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh were also involved.

He says, "I have the letter written by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik recommending Navin Jindal's company to then coal minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in 2002. The Biju Janata Dal leader wanted Jindal's company to be allotted coal mines, so he wrote to Prasad. I have no doubt that people in both the Centre and in states were partners in looting public property. All parties got the favours. The screening committee for coal mines had people from states too as its members."

Read Patnaik's letter to Prasad here

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi