Cannot withdraw de-allocation letters till Law Ministry gives nod, it says

Public sector power producer NTPC should apply for new coal blocks instead of waiting to get back the three mines that were taken away, the Coal Ministry said.

The extra-cautious Coal Ministry would not take any step for the withdrawal of de-allocation letters to NTPC unless the Law Ministry gives its go-ahead, a senior Coal Ministry official told Business Line.

“The question still remains — is it permissible after amendments to the MMDR Act,” he said.

The Coal Ministry had sought the Law Ministry’s view on the issue more than a month ago and is yet to receive any response, the official said.

Brahm Avtar Agrawal, Secretary at Department of Legal Affairs, was not available to comment on the issue. Agrawal is understood to have discussed the matter with Coal Secretary S.K. Srivastava on Thursday.

The Coal Ministry has invited applications from the Central and State public sector utilities to bid for 17 coal blocks, of which 14 are earmarked for power sector. The applications are to be submitted by January 30.

The Power Ministry is putting pressure on the Coal Ministry to re-allocate these mines to NTPC before the company goes for share sale in February. The blocks are Chatti Bariatu, Chatti Bariatu (South) and Kerandari.

According to the Power Ministry, re-allocation of coal mines to NTPC would boost investors’ sentiment. The Government aims to garner more than Rs 12,000 crore by selling 10 per cent stake in NTPC.

At present, the Government holds 84.50 per cent stake in NTPC. The success of NTPC share sale is important for the Government to meet its divestment target for 2012-13.

Till now, the Centre has garnered Rs 6,900 crore by divesting shares in public sector companies. A target of Rs 30,000 crore from disinvestment is set for the complete financial year.

The issue of giving back coal blocks to NTPC has been discussed between the Prime Minister’s Office, Finance, Power and Coal Ministries.

Chatti Bariatu and Kerandari were allocated in 2006, while, Chatti Bariatu (South) was given to the power producer in 2007.

siddhartha.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on January 11, 2013)
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