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Coal auction vindicates CAG stand: Nirmala Sitharaman

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The ongoing auctioning of coal blocks has vindicated the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) criticism of the way the natural resources was allocated by the previous government, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday.

“Certainly the CAG’s position has been vindicated, but I am underlining the larger issue here…our position has been vindicated,” she told reporters on the sidelines of an event here.

“The last CAG report (in 2012) on the coal block allocation was unfortunately unnecessarily criticised but today the figures and the way in which the coal block allocation has been designed by this government in a very transparent manner and has shown two things,” she said.

Coal block allocation during the UPA period led to loss of staggering Rs.1.86 lakh crore as per the CAG estimate. The CAG report had caused tremendous discomfort for the UPA government and the Congress that headed the coalition.

The coal blocks were earlier allocated through a screening committee mechanism.

The present government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, switched to auctioning the coal blocks after the Supreme Court cancelled allocation of 204 mines in September last year. It has put 19 mines on block in the first tranche.

Ms. Sitharaman said: “The institutions (like CAG) of this country are doing their best and all of us will have to respect the way in which these institutions are doing their job and any attempt to undermine or ridicule them is not going to do good for this country.” The natural resources of this country, if carefully without hurting anybody was distributed in a transparent and in an open way, results in revenue that helped this country, she said.

“I think the national interest should prevail, and I am glad that this government has done in this way,” she added.

She further said: “…institutions do their job and most often they come out with their honour intact but what is more worried is when we don’t respect them and make an issue out of it.

States richer by Rs.60,000 crore

“It can also become to the extent it can undermine the institution. More importantly, I think the way in which this government has come about coal allocation has shown the kind of money it can bring,” she added.

States, including Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal, over the next 30 years are set to get nearly Rs.60,000 crore from 11 coal blocks sold via auction till Wednesday.

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