Jena hits back at Opposition for disrupting Parl

New Delhi: Hitting back at the Opposition for disrupting Parliament on coal block allocation issue, the government on Thursday said the then NDA-ruled states were to be blamed for holding back implementation of competitive bidding mechanism.

"So when we wanted a debate in Parliament, they (the Opposition) are avoiding the debate itself, as it will expose them," Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Srikant Jena said here.

Though the concept of allocation of captive coal blocks through competitive bidding was first mooted in 2004, the modalities are yet to be finalised by the government.

Government auditor CAG had earlier this week said private firms are likely to gain a whopping Rs 1.86 lakh crore from allocation of 57 coal blocks without competitive bidding between 2005 and 2009.

"Delay in introduction of the process of competitive bidding has rendered the existing process beneficial to the private companies. Audit has estimated financial gains to the tune of Rs 1.86 lakh crore likely to accrue to private coal block allottees," the CAG report had said.

Showing a letter written by then Odisha government to the Prime Minister`s Office in 2005, Jena said the bidding idea was opposed by the state on grounds that it would impact the existing investors in the sector.

"State government`s authority to recommend cess for allocation of captive coal blocks on the basis of investment will not be available after the proposed amendment. This will be a serious disadvantage for states with rich mineral resources," Jena said quoting the letter.

Not only Odisha, governments of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and others also had opposed the idea of bidding process, Jena said, adding that opposition came from Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh among others.

The then BJP-run Rajasthan government had also opposed the bidding process stating that it would be "an encroachment on state authority and violations of the Sarkaria Commission recommendations".

Jena said when NDA was in power, it used to give away the coal blocks on their own choice even discounting the recommendations of the screening committee.