New Delhi, Jan 7 IBNS | 2 years ago

As the coal scam gets murkier with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) putting a question mark on the suspicious circumstances in which the Mahan coal block was allocated to Aditya Birla Group's Hindalco, Greenpeace India has demanded the cancellation of Mahan coal block and has called for a thorough enquiry into the matter bringing Essar Power and Madhya Pradesh state government under the scanner.

"There is no transparency in the way the coal block was allocated," Greenpeace India said in a statement.

The Power Ministry has told the CBI that it did not recommend Hindalco for the Mahan coal block.

Similarly, the allocation to Essar Power was initially rejected by both Madhya Pradesh state government and the Screening Committee.

"Both these decisions were later reversed, with no explanation whatsoever," read the statement.

The CBI had earlier charged the Aditya Birla group and its chairman of forgery, cheating and financial misrepresentation on the Talabira allocation. The latest revelations raise concern over all coal allocations made between 2004 and 2009.

"The investigation into the allocation of the Mahan block should be extended to include Essar Power as well. The Madhya Pradesh government had strongly objected to the allocation to both Essar and Hindalco on March 1, 2005, but did a U-turn just three weeks later, recommending Essar, but not Hindalco, to the Ministry of Coal on March 23, 2005," said Arundhati Muthu, Greenpeace campaigner.

The Ministry of Power then forwarded this same recommendation to the Screening Committee.

The Screening Committee, which had originally denied the allocation to Essar in its meeting on Mar 1, 2005, then changed its mind without any explanation, giving the block to Essar and Hindalco in 2006.

"There is an urgent need to fully investigate the Mahan coal block allocation and suspend all further movement on the ground until this is complete," said Muthu.

The mining of the Mahan coal block is to be done by Mahan Coal Ltd -a joint venture between Essar Power and Hindalco.

The company is facing protests from local villagers, whose rights over the forest have not been recognised.

Essar and Hindalco both pitched for Mahan coal block at the 27th Screening committee meeting for coal block allocations in March 2005.

The Madhya Pradesh government opposed awarding the block to either company at that time (REF to minutes).

Just three weeks later, the MP government reversed its position and wrote to the Coal Ministry pushing for Essar's inclusion.

The minutes do not reflect any further discussion on the issue, yet a decision was made a year later in 2006 to award Mahan coal block jointly to both companies and announced at the 29th Screening committee meeting on June 3, 2006.

Greenpeace has been campaigning against the development of the Mahan coal block by Essar and Hindalco.

"We demand that the clearances for all coal blocks allocated during the period in question should be put on hold till the completion of the Supreme Court monitored probe," said Muthu.

(Posted on 07-01-2014)