Hindalco was offered an opportunity to operate the controversial Talabira coal mines in a joint venture with a public sector company by former coal secretary PC Parakh as per the minutes of the 25th screening committee. The inter-ministerial committee had also put on record that Orissa government supported the Hindalco application, countering the CBI claim that this was a recent discovery.
The offer for a joint venture is the same route the company took later to mine the Talabira II and III blocks for which the CBI has filed an FIR.
The FIR has alleged a criminal conspiracy between Parakh and KM Birla, chief of the Aditya Birla group, whose company, Hindalco, was allowed to join a joint venture with public sector Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) and Mahanadi Coalfields (MCL). It alleged Parakh overturned the decision of the committee to favour Hindalco later.
The minutes of the screening committee meeting held on January 10, 2005 reads that while Parakh asked the company representatives their views on a joint venture, “the company stated that they would need time to give their reaction on the same”. It also adds “representative from government of Orissa supported allocation of Talabira to the applicant company”.
CBI sources on Wednesday had claimed the agency had found a letter written by state chief minister Naveen Patnaik to the PMO requesting a relook at the decision to reject Hindalco’s request for the block. It turns out the support from the state was consistent and open. The records of the screening committee have been submitted by the coal ministry to CBI sometime ago.
The committee finally decided that while NLC and MCL should operate the mines through a joint venture, Hindalco having already secured a long-term coal linkage (committed coal supply from CIL) for their upcoming 720 MW project did not need a block. This was as per government policy which stated that companies in the private or public sector could get either a linkage or a captive coal block, but not both.
A copy of the screening committee meeting in possession of The Indian Express shows that in 25th meeting, the Hindalco