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Coal scam: CBI quizzes former Odisha bureaucrat, spares Naveen

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
New Delhi, July 25:
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is likely to avoid examining Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik over his role in the coal block allocation scam. This is what the leading national daily the Economic Times has said in its report today.
Bhaskar Chatterjee (source: greentech.org)
Bhaskar Chatterjee
(source: greentech.org)

According to the report, the CBI has questioned a former top Odisha bureaucrat in connection with the coal block allocation scam and asked him to explain why the Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik wrote to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2005 pitching for a coal block to be allotted to Hindalco Industries.

According to the report, retired IAS officer Bhaskar Chatterjee was questioned recently and ” got the clarifications it needed from the officer and now may not require questioning of the chief minister.”
“Chatterjee was the principal secretary for steel and mines in the state in 2005 when Patnaik wrote to Singh, which resulted in the government reversing its earlier decision to not allot a coal mine to the Aditya Birla Group company. This decision is now at the heart of an ongoing criminal probe against Hindalco and the aluminium maker’s chairman, Kumar Mangalam Birla,” the Economic Times report said.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had written to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2005 requesting him to allocate the Talabira II coal block in Sundargarh district, which had earlier been allocated to Neyveli Llignite Corporation (NLC), in favour Hindalco, an Aditya Birla group company.

Based on the Chief Minister’s letter, NLC’ s allocation was cancelled and the coal block was allocated to Hindalco.

It is not, however, clear why the CBI would avoid questioning the Odisha chief minister who wrote the letter to the Prime Minister under his own hand and seal to pitch for a private player.
The Economic Times report says the CBI decision not to interrogate Naveen Patnaik over the coal block scam “would be a relief to the BJP-led Central government, which needs Patnaik’s support in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling alliance doesn’t have a majority.”
The development has given rise to suspicion that Naveen Patnaik may have been spared the embarrassment of being examined by the CBI as part of a ‘political deal’ between the BJP and the BJD. However, reliable sources said the matter would be raised before the apex court if necessary.