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Nirmala Sitharaman fourth tranche announcements: Coal sector to be opened to private firms

Finance Minister's fourth tranche announcements: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the fourth tranche of the Rs 20 lakh crore economic package under the "Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant)" campaign on Saturday.

Addressing her fourth press conference in as many days, Sitharaman said that Saturday's announcements would be on structural reforms. She said that the country needs to be ready for stiff competition in the global market so as to become self-reliant.

Sitharaman said that she will be announcing changes in eight sectors – coal, minerals, defence production, airspace management, airports, MRO, power distributuion companies in union territories UTs and space sector.

— The minister said that there are many sectors which need policy simplifications, adding that the prime minister has very good track record in taking strong, systemic reforms.

Sitharaman on coal sector

— Nirmala Sitharaman said that the government are bringing in commercial mining in the country's coal sector. The government monopoly in coal mining is going to be removed. This, she said, will be done on the basis of a revenue-sharing mechanism instead of regime of a fixed rupee per tonne. She said that any company can bid for a coal block and sell in the open market.

— The minister said that India has the third-largest coal availability within its untapped mines and yet India still imports coal. Because of this the emerging sectors suffer because of lack of raw material availability. Sitharaman said that regulations are required when there is a shortage. But she stressed that India has abundant coal. Separately she said that coalbed methane will also be auctioned. Rs 50,000 crore for evacuation infrastructure is being provided, she added.

Sitharaman on mining sector

— The minsiter said that the sectoral reform they want to bring in is to give boost to the mining sector. So that they have a seamless composite exploration-cum-mining-cum-production regime. 500 mining blocks will be offered through a transparent and open auction mechanism.

— The sectoral reform for mining of minerals will boost growth, employment and bring state-of-the-art technology especially in exploration, Nirmala Sitharaman said.

Sitharaman on defence production

–The finance minister said that the FDI limit in defence manufacturing under automatic route is being raised from 49 per cent to 74 per cent.

–The government will also begin time-bound defence procurement and faster decision making by setting up a Project Management Unit (PMU) to support contract management. It will ensure realistic setting of General Staff Qualitative Requirements of weapons/platforms and overhaul trial and testing procedures.

— The finance minister said the government will notify a list of weapons/platforms banned for imports, she said that such items can only be purchased from India. Every year this list will be increased. It will be done after consultation with the Department of Military Affairs. Sitharaman also said that a separate budget provisioning will be done for domestic capital procurement. This she said will help in reducing the defence import bill.

The minister's announcements on Wednesday (day 1) included six measures for the MSME sector, two for EPF, two for NBFC and MFI sector, one for discoms, one for contractors, one for real estate sector, and three tax measures. On Thursday, Sitharaman said that migrant workers who do not have either central or state PDS cards would be given free food grain supply for the next two months among others. On Friday, she announced a total of 11 measures, of which eight were aimed towards building better capacities and allocation for ramping up storage and logistics. The remaining three were governance and administrative related reforms.

(Inputs and image from theindianexpress.com)

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