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Odisha govt officials under CBI scanner for coal blocks scandal

CBI sources said they would investigate all the aspects of the case before preparing a final report and a clarification would be sought from Odisha government soon.

They said that based on the documents received from the Prime Minister’s Office, it is becoming clear that the recommendation received from the Odisha chief minister, supporting Hindalco for Talabira coal blocks, was crucial in reversal of the earlier decision where the company’s application was rejected.

CBI sources said they would be examining officials of the Odisha government who had processed the file related to the letter as well as those who gave inputs on the subject.

After rejection of the company's bid for Talabira coal blocks by the Screening Committee, the Prime Minister had received a letter dated 17 August, 2005 from chief minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik on the allotment of Talabira-II to Hindalco.

‘The CM’s letter mentioned that the state government had assigned topmost priority to the allocation of Talabira-II to Hindalco and had strongly supported the case in the Steering Committee meeting,’ the PMO had said in a statement.

‘To imply that our chairman, Kumar Mangalam Birla, managed to overturn the decision of the Screening Committee, is preposterous,’ a statement from Hindalco had said refuting the allegations levelled in the CBI FIR.

Patnaik’s letter mentioned that aluminium plants should get higher priority over independent power plants as they generate more employment, create more wealth for the country and add to the growth of the manufacturing sector directly.

The letter had stated it is equitable to accord higher priority to units adding more value through manufacturing within the state where the coal mine is located. The letter contended that these special considerations be kept in mind and the matter examined expeditiously.

CBI had registered an FIR against Birla and former Coal Secretary P C Parakh in connection with allocation of Talabira II and III coal block to Hindalco in joint venture with PSUs.

The agency claims the only material change that took place between rejection of Hindalco’s application during 25th screening committee meeting and allotment were two letters routed to Parakh through the PMO and his personal meeting with Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of Aditya Birla Group.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has been under opposition attack over the allocation to Hindalco, has defended the decision as ‘entirely appropriate’ and based on merits of the case presented to him.
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