The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registering a case against Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) and its promoter, Naveen Jindal, is set to have a ripple effect in Odisha.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is likely to face embarrassment for his role in recommending the Utkal B1 coal block in favour of JSPL in 2002, even before the steel maker inked any memorandum of understanding with the state government. The block was initially allocated to a South-based company.
Patnaik’s special treatment to JSPL had come in for sharp criticism with two central ministers questioning the Odisha chief minister’s real intent.
While minister for chemicals and fertilisers Srikant Jena had accused Patnaik of misleading the people of Odisha on coal block allocations, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s office V Narayanasamy questioned the intention of the chief minister.
“There must be some objective and special interest of the state chief minister behind it (recommending the coal block) and this needs to be investigated,” Narayanasamy said at a press conference in Bhubaneswar in September 2012.
Patnaik had written in 2002 to the then Union minister of state for coal and mines, Ravi Shankar Prasad, seeking allocation of Utkal B1 coal block under Talcher coalfields in favour of JSPL, which proposed to utilise the asset for a steel project.
“Since allotment of the Utkal B1 coal block is vital for setting up the aforesaid sponge iron/steel plant in the state, I would request your personal intervention in the matter and to consider allotment of Utkal B1 coal block in favour of Jindal Steel and Power Ltd on cancelling the prior allotment to Talcher Mining,” Patnaik’s letter stated.
Last week, the coal ministry issued a showcause notice to JSPL for delay and unsatisfactory progress in development of Utkal B1 coal block located in the Chhendipada area of Angul district.
The ministry has given JSPL 20 days to respond to the show-cause notice, failing which the coal block would stand de-allocated.