Odisha CM says Centre owes explanation to nation on coal scam
Bhubaneswar, Aug.20 (ANI): Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday asked the central government to give an explanation to the nation for being a participant in a multi-billion dollar coal scam, which was exposed by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
"This Central Government, the UPA (United Progressive Alliance), has been hit with many scams, and this coal scam, is yet another extremely major scam," said Patnaik.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) accused the government on Friday of allocating coal blocks, power projects and land for Delhi's flagship airport at a fraction of market prices, potentially costing the exchequer tens of billions of dollars in lost revenues.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had sought to link the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, personally to one report, which suggested private companies made windfall gains of about 33 billion dollars owing to the under-priced sale of coal fields between 2004 and 2009.
The opposition demanded Singh's resignation over the affair, dubbed "Coal Gate" by the media, since he was in charge of the coal ministry in 2006 when the sale was underway.
In a draft of its report, which was leaked earlier this year, the state auditor estimated that private companies' "windfall" gain from allocations had amounted to a much larger figure, 211 billion dollars.
Singh has lurched from crisis to crisis since the same auditor uncovered corrupt practices two years ago in the sale of telecom licenses for 2G spectrum. The telecom sale may have cost the government up to 36 billion dollars.
Singh's office maintains the government was simply following established policy, and before the report was released, Singh denied there had been wrongdoing.
India has for years allocated coal blocks directly to companies on the basis of recommendations by state governments. Since 2004 the government has said it will change to more transparent auctions, but had not done so even in February of this year, the report said.
The coal ministry disputed the auditor's calculations, which were based on average extractable reserves.
The ministry said the many of the fields in question had difficult geological conditions and hence higher costs of production. (ANI)
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