Coalgate: PMO defends coal block allotment to Birla's Hindalco NEW DELHI: Breaking its silence, the Prime Minister's Office today rejected any criminality in the controversial allocation of coal block to Hindalco, saying Prime Minister 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 t released details of the sequence of events leading to Singh's approval on October 1,2005 and 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 decision, the PMO referred to Singh's statements earlier that the government has nothing to hide and it will fully cooperate with CBI which is probing the case. The allocation of Talabira coal block in Odisha is in the eye of a storm with CBI booking Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and former Coal Secretary P C Parakh. Parakh has said if he was accused of conspiracy, then the Prime Minister also should 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 CBI is free to investigate the case as it may have got hold of some documents post-allocation. "It is recognised that this allocation (of Talabira coal block) is subject to an ongoing investigation. No impediment is being placed on CBI to continue the investigation and seek fresh information which may have a bearing on the case," the PMO statement said. "The investigation on this and other matters must take their normal course under the law," it added in the statement issued in view of "extensive media coverage" on the matter. Giving the sequence of events, the PMO said Singh had received a letter dated May 7, 2005 from Kumar Mangalam Birla requesting allocation of Talabira-II and III coal blocks in Odisha to HindalcoBSE 3.15 % for its 650MW captive power plant in its integrated aluminium project in Sambalpur and for a 100MW captive plant for the expansion of its Hirakud aluminium plant in Odisha. The Prime Minister noted on the letter -- 'please get a report from Coal Ministry', it said. The PMO forwarded the letter to the Coal Ministry on May 25, 2005 requesting it to look into the matter and send a report. Birla submitted another letter to the Prime Minister on June 17, 2005 repeating the request. This letter was linked to the earlier reference and sent to the Coal Ministry with a request to send their report on the matter, it said. In August 2005, the Coal Ministry sent its file on the matter to the Prime Minister, mentioning that the Screening Committee had considered three major contenders for allocation of Talabira-II and decided to allocate this block to NLC. Coalgate: PMO defends coal block allotment to Birla's Hindalco - The Economic Times ************************************************************* The PM and the PMO claims that the allocation was given based on 'merits'. Therefore, it is surprising that the CBI which is said to be a 'caged parrot' should bite the hands that give Polly the crackers by claiming underhand dealing through the Coal Secretary, Parakash, to benefit Birla. And Prakash adding to the Hercule Poirot mystery by stating that if he is accused of conspiracy, then the Prime Minister also should be made an accused as he had approved the revised decision. Actuallyt, as was being said that if there was the petition from Hindlaco, it should have gone back to the Steering Committee to reconsider, but instead of that, it was sent to the PM to clear the allotment. There is no doubt it raises suspicion, but then could it be that the PM wanted to 'fast track' the allotment so as to buoy up the adding economy?