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Coal workers start biggest national strike since 1977

While negotiations began Tuesday evening between government officials and representatives of trade unions, the strike is estimated to have caused losses to the tune of Rs 35 crore in yesterday’s morning shift itself.

The strike, being billed as the biggest industrial action for any sector since 1977, has been called by the five leading trade unions of the country, including BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS). The unions said about 3.5 lakh people have gone on the five-day strike that began on Tuesday.

The industrial action is in protest against ‘disinvestment and restructuring of state-run Coal India’ and to press for demands including the roll-back of what they call as “process of denationalising of
coal sector”.

The Labour Ministry said in a statement that the strike has affected the working of CIL and its subsidiaries. “One mine of Singareni Collieries Co Ltd was also affected. Further efforts for conciliation between management and the unions are on,” it added.

According to a senior official, “Out of 438 units of CIL, 271 have been completely impacted by the strike. There is only partial production from 57 units. The PSU has suffered losses to the tune of Rs 35 crore in the first shift only.”

The strike, joined by all five major trade unions - BMS, INTUC, AITUC, CITU and HMS – is likely to affect production of up to 1.5 million tonnes (MT) of the dry-fuel per day besides fuel supply to power plants which are already grappling with fuel shortages.

“We are hopeful the situation would be resolved in an amicable manner. The precise impact of the strike would be known later and it would be premature to predict (the impact) at this juncture,” Coal India’s newly appointed chairman Sutirtha Bhattacharya said.

The affect of the strike by seven lakh workers loomed largest over the national Capital as Delhi gets over 80 per cent of its electricity supply from thermal power major - National Thermal Power Station (NTPC). The thermal power plants are completely dependent upon coal supplies by CIL and its subsidiaries.

With winter at its peak the power consumption the national Capital was hovering around 4,000 Mega Watts (MWs).  “We hope that the government intervenes quickly to help end the strike,” said a senior officer of the Delhi power department . According to a senior officer of NTPC, they have coal stock of five days but if the strike continues beyond that, the production was bound to be affected.

“If the strike continues for longer period, the power supply may be hit badly. It is a fact that the strike is likely to result in production loss of up to 105 million tonnes of coal, which in turn would affect 82 of the 86 coal-based thermal power plants in India,” a NTPC spokesperson added.

NTPC spokesperson claimed that 22 big power plants in India had coal supply to meet demand for only 4 days, while 40 others had coal stock for the next 5 days.

Delhi Power Distribution Companies (DISCOMS) like BSES (Rajdhan and Yamuna) Power Limited and Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited(TPDDL) are purchasing power from Singrauli, Badarpur, Rihand, Uchahar , Tanda, Dadri and Jharjhar plants of NTPC.

A TPDDL spokesperson said, “We require 17,00 MW for supply in areas. 80 per cent of our power needs are dependent on coal-based power stations.” A BSES official said that on a daily basis they purchased 2,700 MW of power. “If the strike persists longer, crisis would set in,” he added.
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