Sahais coal role may face probe; IMG dials more block winners

Written by Rajat Arora | Subhash Narayan | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 8 2012, 06:52am hrs
Union tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahais role in the allocation of a coal block to SKS Ispat, a company where his brother Sudhir Kant Sahai was a director, could come under the CBI probe into the scandal, sources told FE. An inter-ministerial group (IMG) has summoned SKS officials to make a presentation to explain the delay in developing the coal mines. Sources said the investigation may be widened to examine the role of sitting ministers in previous coal block allocations.

Meanwhile, with the Opposition disrupting Parliament proceedings to press its demand that the prime minister resign over the coal allocation scandal, the monsoon session ended on Friday, with only four out of the scheduled 30 Bills passed. The washout prompted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to term the disruption a negation of democracy. Singh also called for debating the CAG findings on coal block allocations during 2005-09 in the Public Accounts Committee or the Parliament.

The IMG and the CBI have started coordinating their work, with the former seeking inputs from the latter to make suitable recommendations for cancelling blocks won through criminal conspiracies or where the winners deliberately delayed developing the blocks.

The IMG has also summoned officials of IST Steel and Power, a company owned by the sons of former corporate affairs minister PC Gupta for a presentation on Saturday. Gupta is now a Rajya Sabha MP from Rashtriya Janata Dal. Sources said the Naveen Jindal-promoted Jindal Steel and Power could also be investigated.

Out of 27 companies who must explain their position to the IMG, five are already under the CBI scanner and more could join them. The coal ministry had issued show cause notices to 58 companies and The remaining 31 firms may be summoned next week.

The IMG has asked SKS Ispat to explain the delay in developing underground coal blocks in Madhya Pradesh. The coal ministry show cause notice points to the delay in developing the Rawanwara North underground coal mine allocated in 2007. About 16.7 km sq was allotted for the companys integrated steel plant at Raipur, Chattisgarh. Sources said the ministry had asked the company even earlier to explain its stand. However, the company said that delay was due to lack of forest clearance since a part of the mining area falls in a tiger reserve. It is part of the Pench Kanhan Valley coal field in Madhya Pradeshs Chhindwara district.

Officials of Tata Steel, Bhushan Steel, Himachal EMTA Power, Bihar Sponge and Iron, Electrotherm and Virangana Steels are expected to appear before the IMG on Saturday. The coal ministry has asked IMG to give its final recommendations by September 15 after which it could initiate action. On Friday, officials of Tata Sponge and Iron, Jindal Steel and Power, Hindalco, ArcelorMittal, Rungta Mines and GVK Power were called by the IMG for an explanation.

According to CBI sources, GVK Power, which was allocated Jharkhands Seregarha block in January 2008 and Rungta Mines are already under the CBI scanner. The name of GVK Power also appears in the CAG report.