General elections can put halt to commercial coal mining auctions
Auctions for commercial coal mining may not take place soon as the country is entering the election mode, said a top government official. The statement comes amid resistance from the trade unions operating in the coal sector against commercial coal mining.
"With the nation almost entering the election mode, I think it will be difficult to hear anything soon. Maybe, after a couple of months, we will be able to make bigger progress in this area (commercial coal mining auction)," Coal Secretary Ashish Upadhyaya said. He was speaking during a conference on the coal sector organised by Assocham here.
"When the policy (on commercialisation) came....labours and workforce, who are important stakeholders in this industry, had apprehensions; fear that the conditions of pre-nationalisation will come back. So, it was necessary for the government to allay those fears... Had a constant interaction, dialogue and convinced them that ultimately, privatisation will be in favour of everyone," he said. "Gradually, that consensus building has taken place and soon, maybe, we will have some decision on it but now the timing is also an important factor," he said.
Last year, the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC)-affiliated Indian National Mine Workers Federation (INMF) threatened to observe a strike at Coal India Ltd (CIL) to protest against commercial mining by private companies. In a major reform in the coal sector since its nationalisation in 1973, the government last year allowed private companies to mine the fossil fuel for commercial use, ending the monopoly of state-owned CIL.
Announcing the decision taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), Coal Minister Piyush Goyal had said the reform is expected to bring efficiency in the coal sector by moving from an era of monopoly to competition. The CCEA, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had in February 2018 approved the methodology for an auction of coal mines/ blocks for sale of coal under the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015, and the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.
The opening up of commercial coal mining for the private sector is the most-ambitious coal sector reform since the nationalisation of the sector in 1973, the minister said. India is estimated to have coal reserves of up to 300 billion tonnes.
(With inputs from agencies.)
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