Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday defended his writing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to 'examine expeditiously' the plea of Aditya Birla Group company Hindcalco for allotment of a coal block in the state, which is under the CBI scanner, saying it was done keeping the best interests of Odisha in mind.
"I had urged the Prime Minister to examine Hindalco's request for coal block ... but as per the procedure for coal block allocation, the final decision rests with the central government," Patnaik told reporters here.
Patnaik had on August 17, 2005 written a letter to the Prime Minister saying "I would strongly urge you to have the matter examined so that this vitally important project is provided with required coal linkage at an early date."
A copy of the letter was released by the Chief Minister's office today.
The Chief Minister was apparently reacting to Minister of State for Prime Minister's Office V Narayansamy's remark that coal blocks were allocated to public and private sector companies on the basis of recommendation of states.
Patnaik said that keeping in mind the state's interest, he had written to the Prime Minister indicating that Hindalco's request for Talabira-II coal block in the Ib valley in Jharsuguda district may be examined.
"I repeat again, the letter that was written to the central government was to examine the request of Hindalco and I want to clarify that the job of allocating coal block lies with the central government," he said.
"And no information at all has been received from CBI about questioning or otherwise", he said.
The company was setting up an aluminium smelter of a capacity of 260,000 tonnes per annum in Sambapur district adjoining Jharsuguda for which a captive power plant of 900 MW capacity was needed, a statement by the CMO said.
Since power was a major raw material for an aluminium project, Patnaik said such a project had the added benefit of promoting value addition in the state, thereby adding to the state's revenue and generating employment.
The state government had all along held that higher priority be given to units adding more value in the state instead of sending the raw material to some other states, he said adding Talabira-II was allocated jointly to MCL, NLC and Hindalco in November 2005 by the central government.
Patnaik had in his letter to the Prime Minister pointed out that Odisha government was actively encouraging mineral-based industries to promote socio economic development of the state.
In the aluminium sector, the state government signed an MoU with M/s Hindalco (Aditya Birla Group), the letter to the Prime Minister said.
The state government has since 2000 recommended coal blocks in favour of 42 private companies and PSUs, according to a statement by Steel and Mines Minister R K Singh in the assembly on August, 2012.