Odisha government on Tuesday admitted in the state Assembly that it recommended 42 companies to the central government for coal block allocations, a majority of them private companies.
Amid noisy scenes in the Assembly, minister of state for steel and mines Rajanikant Singh said that from 2001-2002 to 2011-2012, the steel and mines, energy and industries departments together recommended coal block allocations for a total of 42 steel, power, aluminium and cement plants.
Singh however maintained chief minister Naveen Patnaik's assertion that coal was a subject on which the central government had complete authority. ''The recommendations of the state government were only meant to ensure proper utilisation of natural resources, development of industries, encouragement local employment and overall economic development of the state,'' Singh said.
Patnaik himself later ruled out his resignation as demanded by the Congress in the state, saying the Comptroller & Auditor General of India has castigated the union government and not his government in the matter of coal block allocation.
Patnaik's reaction came after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a statement in Parliament named Odisha among other major coal-bearing states allegedly opposing to a switchover to competitive bidding process for coal blocs allotment.
The controversy over coal block allocations has taken the country by storm after the report of the CAG was tabled in Parliament on 17 August. The report said there has been an estimated loss of Rs1.86 lakh crore to the government from allocation of 57 coal blocks to companies without competitive bidding.
The Odisha government has been sucked into the controversy over coal block allotment issue after Patnaik reacted to union coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal's comment that five coal rich states, including Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal and Rajasthan, opposed competitive bidding for coal block allocation.