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PMO defends coal block allotment to Hindalco

The Prime Minister’s Office on Saturday rejected any criminality in the controversial allocation of coal block to Hindalco. It said Manmohan Singh had approved it on the basis of ‘merits’ of the case placed before him.

The PMO, while making it clear that Singh was the ‘competent authority’ who cleared the proposal mooted by the coal ministry in 2005, underlined that the allocation to a joint venture, including Hindalco, was not done at the cost of PSU Neyveli Lignite Corporation.

Releasing details of the sequence of events leading to Singh’s approval on 1 October, 2005, it said: ‘The prime minister is satisfied that the final decision taken in this regard was entirely appropriate and based on the merits of the case placed before him.’

While defending the PM’s decision, the PMO referred to Singh’s statements earlier that the government has nothing to hide and it will fully cooperate with the CBI which is probing the case.
The allocation of Talabira coal block in Odisha is in the eye of a storm with the CBI booking Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and former coal secretary PC Parakh. Parakh has said if he was accused of conspiracy, then the Prime Minister should also be made an accused as he had approved the revised decision.

The PMO acknowledged that the final decision on the allocation ‘differed’ from the earlier recommendation of the screening committee. ‘This was done following a representation received in the Prime Minister’s Office from one of the parties, which was referred to the ministry of coal,’ the PMO said in a statement.

The PMO said the CBI is free to investigate the case as it may have got hold of some documents post-allocation.

Rejecting the Opposition’s demand for the booking of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the coal scam following filing of charges against former coal secretary PC Parakh, union minister Manish Tewari said: ‘There is a difference between an administrative head and the political head of the ministry.’
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