As the CAG report on Coalgate is set to be presented during the monsoon session of parliament and give ammunition to the Opposition, the CBI is examining the role of four Opposition ruled states — Orissa, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
Since coal blocks were allotted by the screening committee headed by coal secretary who functions under the coal minister (In this case the Prime Minister for three years), the Opposition is targeting Manmohan Singh for the scam.
Sources say that the CBI is expected to register a regular case against some of these private companies and officials of the coal ministry and unknown officials in states by mid August.
The centre had also been arguing that state governments are also members of the screening committee and were part of the sanction process for coal mines. The CBI has found that irregularities in allotment of coal blocks took place mostly in these four states.
After scrutinising documents received from the ministry of coal, officials of these state governments could be in trouble as the CBI has learnt that major coal blocks allotments to private companies were made on recommendations from these state governments. Interestingly, all the four states are being ruled by non-Congress governments.
A senior CBI official claimed that these four state governments influenced allotment of coal blocks by making strong recommendations in favour of some private entities (companies). “We are looking into the MoUs that state governments have signed with the companies to whom the blocks were allocated. In fact, we have suspicion that some of these entities were ineligible and some used front companies to get allocations in their favour.”
CBI officials believe that the four state governments played a crucial role in deciding coal block allotment to a particular private company which was not all eligible for allotment.
The CBI learnt that between 2006-2009 more than 60 coal blocks were allocated to private companies after an approval of the screening committee. The allocation was then cleared by the prime minister’s office, as Manmohan Singh was looking after the additional charge of the coal ministry. The CBI is scrutinising the details of seven screening committee meetings from 2005 to 2008. A total of 146 private companies were selected during this period out of 1,422 applicants.
The CBI will also examine the officials of the state government who were part of this process once the records from these states are also made available to the agency.