State admits making 42 recommendations for coal blocks

Bhubaneswar: State government on Tuesday admitted to have made 42 recommendations for allocation of coal blocks to private companies, contrary to claims made by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik that the state was in favour of auction-based system for allocation of minerals.

The state government`s act of recommending names of private companies and a state PSU came to fore when Steel and Mines minister R K Singh readout a statement while initiating a debate on an adjournment motion on the coal issue.

However, the adjournment motion could not be taken up for full discussion due to uproar by opposition Congress members who wanted expunction of certain remarks made by a ruling BJD member about a former Chief Minister.

The Steel and Mines minister`s statement was significant as Chief Minister on August 23 had stated that the state government had been asking for an auction based system for allocation of coal and other minerals.

"Coal is a subject on which the Central government has complete authority. Our state government has been asking for an auction-based system for the allocation of mineral resources including coal, I repeat, including coal for the last few years," Patnaik had said.

While the Steel and Mines department had made 14 recommendations for coal block allocation in favour of 16 companies and one state PSU during 2001-02 to 2011-2012, Industries department recommended names of two companies for coal blocks in 2007.

Similarly, the Energy department also made 26 recommendations for different Independent Power Producers (IPPs) for allocation of coal blocks, according to data provided along with the Minister`s statement.

Of the 42 recommendations, 18 companies including the state owned Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) have been allocated coal blocks, it said.

Admitting that the state government had recommended names of companies for coal block allocations, Steel and Mines minister R K Singh said "The state government had recommended names of companies for coal block allocation with an aim to make value addition to the mineral wealth of Odisha and create employment opportunities for locals."

"The Government had thought that the recommendations for coal block allotment will help increase revenue for the state and improve its socio-economic condition," Singh said.