Congress corners Naveen Patnaik over coals
The coalgate continued to generate heat in the Assembly for the second day on Wednesday with the Congress demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and a CBI probe into the recommendation made by the State Government for coal block allotment in the State.
Referring to the statement of the Chief Minister that the CAG has indicted the Centre and not named States in its
report, Congress chief whip Prasad Harichandan said that the report mentioned several companies operating in Odisha. “Will the Chief Minister resign on his own and set an example for others over the coal issue? We do not demand his resignation. But the Chief Minister should resign before the BJD demands resignation of the Prime Minister,” Harichandan said, participating in the discussion on the admissibility of an adjournment motion on the issue. Justifying Congress demand for the resignation of the Chief Minister, Harichandan said though the Centre
attempted to introduce bidding process for coal block allocation in 2005, it was strongly opposed by the State
Government. However, the Chief Minister is now claiming that the State Government has been asking for auction-based system for allocation of mineral resources, including coal, he said. “The Chief Minister is telling untruths. Neither he nor his Government has ever suggested bidding route for coal block allocation. Therefore, we suggest him to tender resignation and set an example for others,” he said.
He claimed that the State Government had already admitted making recommendations in favour of private companies for coal block allocation. Stating that Naveen had written several letters to the Prime Minister and the Union Coal Minister recommending names of private companies for coal blocks, the Congress chief whip alleged that the State Government had been pushing cases of Independent Power Producers (IPPs). Harichandan alleged that the State Government had also written to the BJD MPs to lobby for getting coal blocks allotted in the State
for private parties. The minister, in his statement in the House, has not gi ven any information whether the companies which have been allotted coal blocks have started operation. Have they extracted coal and utilised for captive use or sold it, he asked. Making a statement on the issue in the House on Tuesday, Minister of State for Steel and Mines Rajani Kanta Singh had admitted that the State Government had recommended the case of 42 private companies for allotment of coal blocks in the State.