File-A. Prabhakar Rao
Coalgate: Ex-Coal Min Dasari Narayana Rao Quizzed by CBI

Former Coal Minister Dasari Narayana Rao was today questioned by CBI in connection with alleged irregularities in allocation of Talabira-II coal block in which Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and former Coal Secretary P C Parakh are accused.

Rao was summoned to the CBI headquarters this morning and quizzed about the allocation of Talabira-II coal block at Odhisa to Hindalco despite the screening committee giving it to Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) Neyveli Lignite Limited.

66-year-old Rao, a Congress MP from Andhra Pradesh, was Minister of State for Coal between 2004 to 2006 and in his second term from 2006 to 2008.

Rao, who has been Rajya Sabha member from 2000 to 2012, was not immediately available for comments.

Rao along with his former Coal Minister Shibu Soren has been accused by Parakh in his book on coal scam as those responsible for scuttling reforms in the Coal minsitry.

CBI is likely to question Parakh this week as the agency has finished examining top executives of the Rs 2.4 lakh crore Birla company in connection with the allocation.

However, no decision to summon the group's chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla has been taken so far, the sources said.

CBI had registered a case naming 46-year-old Birla, Parakh and unknown officials of Hindalco and coal ministry last year under various sections pertaining to criminal conspiracy and corruption for alleged irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks nine years back.

The probe in the case gained momentum after the agency took written answers from T K A Nair, Advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in connection with entire coal scam especially on Talabira-II.

Nair had denied any wrong doing in allocation of coal blocks to Hindalco. Registering of a case against Birla and Parakh was criticized by India Inc and former bureaucrats.

A decision on filing a closure report or a charge sheet will be taken by the CBI after completing the investigations in the case, the sources said.

Hindalco has denied allegations of irregularities. "We wish to state unambiguously that we have followed every process required for allocation of coal completely, as stipulated by the Government policy," it had stated.

CBI alleged that during 2005, these persons entered into a criminal conspiracy and the then public servant (Parakh) abused his position and showed undue favour to the Odisha-based industry in allocation of Talabira II and Talabira III coal blocks along with a Public Sector Undertaking of Tamil Nadu.

According to the FIR, Tamil Nadu government PSU Neyveli Lignite Limited was to be given Talabira II block but Parakh allegedly favoured Hindalco and allowed it to share the block with Neyveli leading to notional loss to the exchequer.

The agency could not reach exact quantum of loss as the coal block is still not operational. The blocks were allocated for power production during a meeting of Screening Committee of the Coal Ministry, the sources said and claimed that the coal allocation was meant for PSUs only.

Parakh, who was Coal Secretary at the time of this allocation, faces charges of criminal misconduct under the Prevention of Corruption Act as also criminal conspiracy.

The former coal secretary recently came out with a book in which he questioned CBI's decision to register a case against him and said if he was guilty then the Prime Minister should also have been named in the FIR.

He also said that there was no wrong doing in allocating the coal block to Hindalco.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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