Govt Of India
The coal ministry is in the news for all the wrong reasons from the Comptroller and Auditor General report criticising the allocation of captive mines to low production by Coal India Ltd, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal spoke to Sebastian PT on these and other issues in an exclusive interview.
Q - You have repeatedly said that the policy followed in coal allocation was perfect. If so, why were so many flaws discovered by the CAG?
A - The Prime Minister's job is to formulate a policy and develop the best mechanism to implement it. It is not his job to find out about the wealth and assets of each allottee. That is the job of state-level officials or of the Screening Committee. The Prime Minister formulated a cent per cent correct policy. There was no better mechanism for implementation than the Screening Committee, as the Coal Secretary headed it and the Secretaries of different line ministries were part of it, including the Chief Secretaries of the states.
I do not accept the premise of the CAG. The comparison of mines belonging to CIL with that of the allocated (captive) coalmines is not appropriate. The geo-mining conditions of the allocated mines vary. Coal may be available at 100 feet in one mine while in another it may be 500 feet. Besides, some mines are in the interiors or tense (Naxal) areas. On the other hand, the mines that CIL operates are in easy areas.
Q - But most allocated captive mines have not even started production...
A - There are many reasons for this. Starting a mine is not akin to starting a restaurant. There is a minimum gestation period. Many are yet to receive forest and environment clearances or are stuck with land acquisition problems. Some mines are in areas where law and order is a problem (Naxal areas). But there are some instances of companies deliberately not starting production. The Inter-Ministerial Group is looking into the issue of defaulting mining companies. I have asked it to submit its report by the middle of September. Appropriate action will be taken against erring companies.
Q - How do you plan to increase coal production? Due to poor supply, 69 million tonnes of coal was imported in 2010/11. The increase in production by CIL during the 11th Plan has not been satisfactory...
A - Coal India will increase production by 7 per cent this fiscal. There is no possibility of production going up substantially in the near future as the public sector company is facing many problems.
Q - When the Inter-Ministerial Group deallocates mines, these are expected to go back to CIL. Power, steel and cement companies fear costs will go up given CIL's past record on coal production...
A - It is up to the group to decide on de-allocation or to give advisories or encash bank guarantees of defaulting mines. A decision on what should be done with the mines, if they are to be deallocated, will be taken only after the report is submitted.
Also, the companies that have received the coal blocks should start operating them. Those who have not got coal blocks should try to get them through the (bidding) system that we are developing. Companies should not be too dependent on Coal India Limited.
Q - Will public private partnerships be one of the options in developing coalmines?
A - We shall decide on that later.
Q - The CAG has suggested having an empowered group on the lines of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board for single-window clearance of allocations...
A - A decision on a single-window mechanism is not possible at this moment due to the federal character of our Constitution. This would mean clubbing state forest clearance, state environment clearance, Central environment clearance, land acquisition and other similar issues under a single apparatus. Nevertheless, the proposal is a good one though it will take a long time to implement. I fully support the idea.
Source – Business Today