Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Coal Scam: CBI grills 2 ex-PMO staff, Nair up next

New Delhi:The CBI has questioned two former PMO officials to study procedures involved in coal block allocations in its bid to understand how much of Coalgate details reached PM Manmohan Singh’s desk. After examining the two officials—Vini Mahajan and Ashish Gupta—the

CBI is preparing to question TKA Nair, ex-principal secretary to PM. Nair held charge during the 2006-09 allocations and is currently adviser to the PM. The CBI has also summoned ex-coal secretary HC Gupta on Thursday.

JSPL, Tata get notice for sitting on blocks
New Delhi: The coal ministry has served notice to Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL), a company promoted by Congress MP Naveen Jindal, and Tata group joint venture Strategic Energy Tech Systems Ltd (SETSL) for squatting over prime coal blocks which are among the biggest mines in terms of reserves named in the federal auditor’s Coalgate report.

The ministry has given the companies 20 days to explain delays in achieving milestones in developing the blocks – JSPL’s Ramchandi I and SESTL’s Arkhapal Srirampur. SESTL is a joint venture between a consortium of Tata group firms and South Africa’s Sasol.

Both the blocks are in Odisha and were allotted in February 2009 for CTL projects that aimed to produce synthetic auto fuels from coal. The Comptroller and Auditor General, on the basis of ministry records, pegged the gross coal reserves of each mine at 1,500 million tonnes.

According to back-of-theenvelope calculations, the two blocks are good enough to produce 15,000 mw – or more than five times Delhi’s demand – for 25 years even if half the reserves are mined.

The notice to JSPL shows that the company has failed to achieve 16 out of 17 milestones stipulated in the allotment letter. The showcause to SETSL shows the company achieving only six milestones so far.

The companies had joined the CTL bandwagon during oil’s record run through 2008-09 when crude price saw a peak of $147 a barrel. But with subsequent decline in oil prices, CTL projects appeared less attractive. Reliance Industries Ltd too had applied for a block for the same project but did not succeed. South Africa is the pioneer in CTL technology and its application.

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