Coal soot on power ministry

Written by Rajat Arora | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 12 2012, 06:20am hrs
The power ministry's role in the allocation of coal blocks to 146 firms between 2006 and 2009 has come under the CBI scanner. Among the private firms the ministry recommended for coal blocks, some were ineligible for allocation, sources said.

In the first set of FIRs filed against five firms, the CBI found that the Nagpur-based JLD Yavatmal Energy, which is jointly owned by Congress MP Vijay Darda and mining baron Manoj Jayaswal, was recommended by the power ministry along with four other firms for the allotment of the Fatehpur (East) coal block in Chhattisgarh. The state government, without whose recommendation the block would not have been allocated, did not recommend JLD Yavatmal's name, but despite that the firm was allocated the coal block.

The ministry turned a blind eye to the credentials of JLD Yavatmal. The company was recommended to the coal ministry without studying its track record, technical experience and financial strength. It could be possible that officials of the ministry favoured the company, said a source.

The power ministry's recommendations were based on an analysis made by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA). Despite its apparent shortcomings and non-compliance with the CEA norm, the ministry recommended JLD Yavatmal's name. According to sources, there could be other similar cases. We are examining the allotment of 64 blocks to 146 firms allocated between 2006 and 2009. Role of all officials, including those in the power ministry, is being examined, said a CBI officer.

JLD Yavatmal was allocated the Fatehpur block in 2008 as the company proposed to set up a 1,215-MW capacity power plant. But the company failed to develop the mine.

Meanwhile, the political drama continued through the day on coal scam. The BJP said union coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal's links with mining baron Manoj Jayaswal should also be probed. This came after the reports that Jaiswal had favoured companies owned by the Jayaswal group. Senior Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav on Tuesday accused Jaiswal of serious irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks after he took charge of the coal ministry.

Sriprakash Jaiswal cleared allocation of three coal blocks within one hour and seven minutes of taking charge, he said.