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Hope decision on coal mines will be fast: FM

Ahead of the hearing on the coal block allocations issue on Monday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday exuded hope that a decision on the fate of the 218 coal blocks is taken expeditiously post-judgement.

‘We cannot allow the fate of the coal blocks to hang in mid-air ... They need to be utilised for the purpose for which coal is utilised and therefore whether the existing allotees are to use it or it is to put to a fresh allotment process, I do hope that this decision does not linger on. The future fate of these is decided expeditiously,’ Jaitley told reporters here.

If resources cannot be utilised, its adverse impact is inevitable and therefore ‘we hope that this uncertainty should not continue for long time’, he said.

His remarks followed the Supreme Court order on August 25 holding that all coal block allocations made since 1993 till 2010 before the pre-auction era during the previous NDA and UPA regimes have been done in an illegal manner by an ‘ad-hoc and casual’ approach ‘without application of mind’.

Asked about the fate of the blocks, Jaitley said, ‘This depends on how and what shape the litigation in the Supreme Court further takes.’ The next hearing in the matter is scheduled for September 1.

Jaitley also said that comprehensive measures to boost domestic coal output are underway, including sufficient supply to power projects besides rationalisation of coal linkages to reduce power costs.

‘Comprehensive measures for enhancing domestic coal production are being put in place. An exercise to rationalise coal linkages to optimise transport of coal and reduce cost of power is underway.’

The remarks come at a time when the country is battling to provide sufficient fuel to coal-starved power plants.
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