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Orissa CM says backed Hindalco in the best interest of the state

Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Thursday said he had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in August 2005 to examine Hindalco’s request for the Talabira II coal block in Jharsuguda district keeping in mind the best interests of the state.

Patnaik’s statement about his role in the controversial allotment came hours after CBI sources said that the agency, while examining documents in connection with its coal blocks distribution probe, had found a letter written by him to the PMO requesting a relook at the decision to reject Hindalco’s request for the block.

The CBI had Tuesday filed an FIR in the case, accusing Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of the Aditya Birla group, and former coal secretary P C Parakh of criminal conspiracy in the allotment of two coal blocks in Orissa in 2005, Talabira II being one of them.

CBI sources claimed that similar requests by state governments to favour private firms in the allotment of coal blocks had been rejected but due consideration was given in Hindalco’s case.

The sources, however, said there was no immediate plan to question Patnaik in the case following the discovery of his letter.

In a statement to the press, Patnaik said the state government gives utmost importance to mineral development due to the abundant reserves of bauxite, iron ore and coal in Orissa which in turn creates employment and more revenue for the government’s development programmes.

“Since power is a major raw material for an aluminium project…we had asked the central government to examine the request of Hindalco. The state government has all along held that higher priority be given to units adding more value in our state instead of sending the raw material to some other state,” Patnaik said.

Hindalco is setting up an aluminum smelter of 2.6 lakh tonnes per annum in Sambalpur district, adjoining Jharsuguda, for which it needed a captive power plant of 900 MW capacity. And Patnaik wrote to the PM on August 17, 2005, pushing Hindalco’s case for the Talabira II coal block in Jharsuguda.

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