An inter-ministerial group, set up by the Coal Ministry in June 2012 to review the development of coal blocks, has reportedly found that several coal firms have failed to take even initial steps for mining. For example, many have yet to apply for land and forest clearances. In April, the government had sent showcause notices to these 58 companies after it found that coal blocks allotted to them were not operational.
The panel is hence likely to recommend that several of these companies lose their licences. In its next meet on September 3, it will further deliberate on the replies sent against the show cause notices. Based on the discussions on Monday, the panel will submit its final report on September 15. However, its recommendations are not binding on the Coal Ministry.
These companies are in trouble for alleged non-performance. The committee that has reviewed them has not studied whether there were irregularities in how these coal blocks were allocated.
It is the state auditor or the Comptroller and Auditor General of India who has looked at 142 coal blocks and has found that they were assigned without transparency.
17 of the coal blocks among the 58 looked at by the inter-ministerial group are mentioned in the CAG report too.
The ministerial panel's recommendations to revoke licences will boost the opposition BJP which has faulted the government for a coal policy that was not in the best interests of the country.
The BJP has made it impossible for the monsoon session of Parliament to transact any business. For eight days, Parliament has been paralysed because of noisy disruptions by the BJP demanding the PM's resignation.
On Friday, the PM said there was no question of him quitting. He accused the BJP of violating democratic processes by not allowing Parliament to function.
With only a week to go before this Parliament session ends, Congress president Sonia Gandhi phoned BJP leader Sushma Swaraj on Friday to find a compromise.
Sources say the government may be open to allowing a judicial investigation into the allocation of coal blocks and other aspects of "coal-gate" if the BJP agrees to end the paralysis of Parliament.
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