Coal mines’ auction begins today; PM calls it freedom from decades of lockdown
– globalbihari bureau
New Delhi: Following a major shift in policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the auction process of 41 coal blocks, which comprised of fully explored and partially explored mines including 4 coking coal mines located in states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha,for commercial mining through video conference from here on Thursday.
As the Coal Ministry in association with Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) launched the process for auction of these coal mines, Modi said: “Today we are not only launching the auction of commercial coal mining today but also freeing the coal sector from decades of lockdown.”
With this auction process, the government is expecting to create around 3 lakh jobs, new capital investment worth Rs.33,000 crore and generate annual revenue of 20,000 crore for the states. The auction process will be a two-stage tender process with technical and financial bidding.
Describing the decision to auction coal blocks as a major step to make India self-reliant in the energy sector, the Prime Minister said the effect of “lockdown of the coal sector” was well known to all. He elaborated: “You know it better than me. Give it a thought. The nation with the fourth largest coal reserves in the world; the second largest producer in the world; that nation is not a coal exporter, but the second largest coal importer in the world. The question is, when we are one of the largest producers in the world, why can’t we be the largest exporter?”
Also read: Government to launch first-ever commercial coal auctions on June 18
Modi said for decades, the country’s coal sector was entangled in the mesh of captive and non-captive. “It was kept outside the competition; transparency was a major issue. Forget about fair process of auction, everybody is aware of the big scams involving coal mines allocation,” he said and argued that for this reason, coal sector lacked investment and its efficiency was also questionable. “Coal would be extracted in one state and sent to another state, hundreds of kilometers away and, the originating state would wait for coal. It was quite messy,” he pointed out.
Modi referred to the steps taken after 2014 to change this scenario. “We implemented coal linkage which no one could think about. Such steps provided impetus to coal sector. Recently, we brought many reforms which were being thought about for decades. Now, India has taken a big decision to fully open coal and mining sectors for competition, capital, participation and technology. Care has been taken to ensure that the new players in private mining sector do not face problem of finance,” he said.
After these reforms, now coal production and entire coal sector will become self—dependent. Now market has been opened for coal; so, any sector can buy as per their requirements. The Prime Minister said beginning of auction today for commercial coal mining “is a win-win situation for stakeholders. The Industries, you, your businesses, investments will get new resources and markets. State governments will get more revenue and a huge population of the country will get employment. It means, there will be a positive impact on every sector”.
According to Modi, these coal sector reforms were a big medium to make “eastern and central India, our tribal belt, into pillars of development”. He said areas having coal, minerals had not been able to reach desired level of progress and prosperity. “This is also the part of the country having a big number of Aspirational Districts.People of these districts are aspiring for development, but have lagged behind in terms of development. You can imagine that 16 Aspirational districts in the country have a huge stock of coal; but people of these areas have not got adequate benefit of this. Our friends from these places have to migrate to far-flung cities for employment. The steps taken towards commercial mining will be very helpful to a big population of eastern and central India in providing them employment near their homes and reducing many such problems,” he said.
The Government expects auction of the coal blocks to generate “lakhs of jobs” in this sector. Modi was of the view that infrastructure needed for coal extraction to transportation would also create employment opportunities, and pointed out his government’s recent decision to spend 50 thousand crore rupees on creating such an infrastructure.
Reiterating that reforms and investment in coal sector will play a big role in making lives of people, especially the poor and tribal population, easy, the Prime Minister said that extra revenue generated through coal production would be used for public welfare schemes there. “States will also continue to get help from the District Mineral Fund. A major chunk of this Fund is being utilized in development of essential facilities in the areas surrounding coal mines. We are following the objective of making people of mineral rich areas wealthy. The steps being taken today will greatly help this objective,” he said.
Modi said these reforms would not only benefit coal sector but other sectors as well. “When we increase coal production, then positive impact is also felt on production and processing in Steel, Aluminium, Fertilizers and Cement sectors with an increase in power generation,” he said and added: “Fortunately, in India, reserves of coal, iron, bauxite and other minerals are located very close to each other. So, reforms brought in minerals sector have got strength from coal mining reforms.”
While implementing coal reforms, Modi claimed care was taken to ensure that “India’s commitment to protect environment doesn’t get weakened”. He said latest technology could be introduced to make gas from coal so that environment was protected with steps like coal gasification. “Coal gas will be used in transport and cooking while Urea and steel will promote manufacturing industries. We have set a target to gasify around 100-million-ton coal by the year 2030. I am told that four projects have been identified for this purpose and around 20 thousand crore rupees will be invested in this process,” he said.
Modi further asserted that as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, which was announced last month in order to realize the resolve of a self-reliant India, within a month every reform, be it in the sectors of agriculture, MSME or now the Coal & Mining Sector, have been implemented on ground. “Self-reliance is not possible without strong mining and minerals sector; because minerals and mining are important pillars of our economy,” he said.