‘Zero loss’ in coal block allocations, says Govt

A battery of union ministers maintained that the government auditor’s concept of presumptive loss on coal block allocations was “deeply flawed”.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: At a time where UPA is facing the opposition`s ire over the CAG report on coal block allocations, a battery of ministers on Friday maintained that the government auditor’s concept of presumptive loss was “deeply flawed”.

After both the houses of the Parliament were disrupted over the Coalgate issue for the fourth day in a row, Finance Minister P Chidambarama, along with a Group of Ministers (GoM), was addressed a press conference here.

"If coal is not mined, if it remains buried in mother earth, where is the loss? The loss can arise only once the coal is taken out of mother earth, mined and sold at unacceptable price or value. But if the coal is not mined, where is the loss," Chidambaram who heads the GoM told reporters.

Chidambaram was apparently referring to the CAG`s figure of Rs 1.86 lakh crore "undue benefit" flowing to private firms who have been allocated coal blocks without auction since 2004.

"This presumptive loss (of Rs 1.86 lakh crore projected by CAG in its report), I deeply regret to say, is flawed”, he said.

The Finance Minister maintained that no coal has been mined so far in 56 out of the 57 blocks examined by the CAG.

Flanked by Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, Chidambaram said the UPA was being unnecessarily targeted for following procedures adopted by the governments since 1994 in allocating coal blocks without auction.

“The procedure of coal block allocation followed by UPA was the one followed earlier by NDA and other governments,” Chidambaram stated.

“It is sad that now we are being attacked for continuation of the policy that has been going on for many years,” he added.
“In 2005, government after government in states had opposed auctioning of coal blocks. If coal blocks had been allotted by administrative order or law, it would have amounted riding roughshod on states,” the FM said.

In a bid to reach out to the opposition, the Finance Minister said that the government was willing to discuss the CAG report on coal blocks allocation threadbare in Parliament.

“We are very disappointed that Parliament has been paralysed for the whole week. It is our appeal when Parliament meets on Monday please allow it to function,” he stated further.

“The government has explained its stand. We are willing to debate and discuss any subject in Parliament, including the coal blocks allocation issue,” Chidambaram said.
Chidambaram expressed hope that the PM will be allowed to make a statement in Parliament on Monday. “If not, we will find way to reach out to people,” he said.

Coal Minister Jaiswal said it was wrong to blame the PM as coal allocation policy was being continued since 1993.

“The BJP which is now demanding the PM’s resignation, the same party’s chief ministers had opposed the auction route in 2005,” Jaiswal said.

He too said that the government is ready to take up the coal issue as the first matter on Monday when Parliament meets. “If the Lok Sabha Speaker wants, she can even cancel the Question Hour and initiate a debate on the issue,” he added.

“We are ready to debate and discuss, but if they only want to do politics, then the Parliament is not made for that,” he said.

The minister further said that auction of coal blocks was not possible this year. He stated that no coal block has been allocated during the tenure of UPA-II, adding bidding documents for auction are under finalisation.