Mumbai: Minister of State for Science and Technology Ashwani Kumar Saturday said that the CAG’s calculation of Rs.1.85 lakh crore loss over allocation of coal blocks to private players is presumptive and “totally flawed”.
“Anyone who knows anything about geology will understand that there is no such thing as average price and average reserves. The mines vary in their coal reserves and even the cost of extraction varies from mine to mine,” Ashwani Kumar said, while interacting with media persons here Saturday evening.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in a report to parliament last week said that lack of transparency in allocation of coal blocks to private players resulted in a notional loss of Rs.1.85 lakh crore ($37 billion) to the exchequer.
Ashwani Kumar emphasised that of the 57 allotments only one allottee has been able to mine the coal.
“There has been no mining in 56 coal blocks for a variety of reasons, including not getting environmental clearance. The coal is where it is. The government has already de-notified 25 mines and 32 allottees have been cautioned against non-action. If the coals are not mined, they will come back to government. Where is the loss?” Ashwani Kumar asked.
He said that multiplying the average reserves with average cost plus selling price and arriving at a figure is “totally flawed”.
Ashwani Kumar also said that the ministry has offered to discuss the CAG report on coal block allocations in parliament as the “government has nothing to hide”.
“The CAG report on coal block allocations, under the procedure itself is inactionable. It is an established constitutional convention that the CAG report has to be validated by the Public Accounts Committee and thereafter it is presented before parliament,” he said.
“However, we have offered to discuss the CAG report in parliament, stating that the government has nothing to hide,” Ashwani Kumar said.
When asked as to why the coal blocks were not auctioned, the minister said that when the UPA government mooted the proposal in 2004, the state governments of West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan did not favour the auctioning method.
“The (central) government then sought the legal opinion. The first opinion asked the government to amend the legislative framework. When the state governments opposed the proposal, the second opinion from the law ministry said the law can be amended by an executive order,” he said.
“In 2008, the draft bill was formulated, which went to the Standing Committee. In 2010, the Standing Committee asked (the central government) to go back and talk to the state governments. All this process took time,” he added.