Coalgate: Govt releases letters written by Opposition CMs

Government on Thursday made public letters written to the Centre by BJP and other non-Congress chief ministers strongly opposing any changeover to auction of coal mines.

New Delhi: In a counter-offensive against BJP on the coal blocks allocation scam, government on Thursday made public letters written to the Centre by BJP and other non-Congress chief ministers strongly opposing any changeover to auction of coal mines.

Senior Minister Kapil Sibal released letters from the then BJP chief minister Vasundhara Raje of Rajasthan, Shivraj Singh Chauhan of Madhya Pradesh and Chief Secretaries of BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh and CPI-M ruled West Bengal to argue that the states had a say in the allocation of coal mines and the blame was being put on the Centre.

In a letter to the Prime Minister in 2005, Raje wrote that changing the allocation policy to auction would take away the state`s prerogative in favour of the lessee. She requested that the existing practice of allocation through Screening Committee should continue.

Sibal said her letter clearly showed that the states had a say in the selection of lessees.

In his letter, Chauhan wrote to the Prime Minister in November, 2007 seeking approval of use of excess coal from three blocks in the state to the new power plant proposed to be developed by Reliance Power Ltd at Chitrangi Tehsil.

Chhattisgarh Chief Secretary AK Vijayavargiya strongly opposed any policy change saying it was likely to shift the new steel and iron units from the poorer inland states to comparatively richer coastal states.

"The proposal would, therefore, be detrimental to the development/growth of iron/steel industry in the inland states like Chhattisgarh (and Jharkhand, MP etc)", he said in his letter to the Union Coal Secretary in March, 2005.

Vijayvargiya had also said since the number of applicants for captive coal blocks to be allocated through competetive bidding process would be many, only the financially bigger ones were likely to capture the available coal blocks, leaving the unsuccessful ones without any access to domestic coal.

He said the only option available to the relatively smaller unsuccessful iron and steel units would be to depend on imported coal, the prohibitive cost of which in inland locations would make them unviable resulting in their closure.

This, the official wrote, would affect states like Chhattisgarh very badly and the policy chane aimed at moving towards free market scenario.

".......In such a scenario, the supply/sale of commodity needs to be regulated rather than putting it on the competetive bidding route.

"The state government, therefore, does not support the proposal and instead is of the view that allotment of captive coal blocks to iron and steel industry needs to be continued as per the extant policy," he said.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had written to Coal Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in 2002 seeking his personal intervention to consider allotment of Utkal B-1 coal block in favour of Jindal Steel and Power Ltd on cancelling the prior allotment to Talcher Mining Pvt Ltd.

Attacking the opposition`s "hypocrisy, duplicity and opportunism", Sibal said that much before the CAG report was tabled in Parliament, allocation of 26 coal blocks was cancelled.

Targetting BJP`s "extra-Constitutional ideology", he referred to BJP leader Arun Jaitley`s statement that there were occasions when obstruction in Parliament brings greater benefit to the country and there was no point in debating in Parliament and PAC because government had majority.

"This is the anti-thesis of parliamentary democracy which has now been elevated into an ideology by Jaitley," Sibal said.

The minister asked how could the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha denigrate parliamentary democracy by saying Parliament be made dysfunctional because government is in majority.

"This is obfuscation of parliamentary processes. This amounts to denigrating parliamentary democracy. The Leader of the Opposition seems to have discovered the virtues of obstructing Parliament in the larger interest. This is hypocritical,", he said.

Sibal also referred to Jaitley`s speeches in Parliament in 2001 extolling the virtues of debate in Parliament and discussion in PAC on CAG reports on the controversy relating to purchase of coffins and said "BJP relishes double-speak. Its adopting a high moral ground is hollow."


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