Dismissing allegations of corruption against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh levelled by Team Anna, Coal Minister Sri Prakash Jaiswal on Sunday said all decisions on allocation of coal blocks were taken with the consent of the state governments in a transparent manner.
“Not a single coal block has been allotted without the consent of the state government. Not only this, the committee through which the coal blocks are allocated has a chief secretary-level officer from the state concerned as its member.”
“Doubts have been raised by certain quarters regarding allocation of coal blocks to private companies for captive use. The blocks were allocated on the basis of recommendation of the screening committee which had acted in an unbiased and transparent manner,” he said.
Attacking the PM, Team Anna yesterday cited portions of a draft CAG report to make charges against him when the coal ministry was with him.
They had never made allegations against the prime minister before.
Jaiswal said that between 1993 and 2009, the then governments had felt that to meet the growing power demand, coal blocks should be allocated in the private sector also as "Coal India Ltd alone would not be able to meet the growing demand".
"The country's mineral resources are being used for the people's benefit, so how can you call it a scam," he said while replying to queries on Team Anna's allegations, adding he was not responding to allegations of any group but was only trying to clear doubts raised on coal block allocation.
Noting that the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had understood the need for using coal available in the country, he said, "I want to congratulate the Prime Minister... Had the coal blocks not been allocated, we would have been forced to import coal and drain our foreign exchange."
Jaiswal said 208 blocks were allocated in the country with the hope that they will meet the demand for fuel.
"Till five years ago, there was not so much demand, Between 1993 and 1999, only eight coal blocks were alloted. 1999 to 2004, 32 were alloted and the rest were given between 2004 and 2008. Out of these, 15 were cancelled and 50 others have been issued show cause notice (because of alleged irregularities) and inquiry is on".
He said after April 2009, not a single coal block has been allocated and it will start after a few months through the bidding process.
"As the demand for coal increases, UPA I felt that there should be a bidding process. But the state government and the Trade Unions opposed it. However, as the government felt that the coal bidding process should be transparent, the state governments and the unions were brought on board," the Minister said.