Millennium Post

Lok Sabha passes Coal Mines Bill

Lok Sabha on Friday cleared way for fresh auction of 204 coal blocks, de-allocated by the Supreme Court in September. Lok Sabha passed a Bill in this regard after the government allayed apprehensions of some parties that the legislation would lead to privatisation of the sector.

The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, which replaces and Ordinance promulgated in October, was passed by voice vote even as some opposition parties made the demand to send it to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for closer scrutiny.

The Bill provides for “allocation of coal mines and vesting of the right, title and interest in and over the land and mine infrastructure, together with mining leases, to successful bidders and allottees through a transparent bidding process. This will ensure continuity in coal mining operations and production of coal. The bill prescribes the conditions to rationalise the coal sector for mining operations, consumption and sale.”

Replying to the debate, Coal minister Piyush Goyal allayed concerns raised by some members that the new legislation would pave the way for de-nationalisation or privatisation of the coal sector. “We are in fact strengthening” the Public Sector Undertaking Coal India Limited, he said.

Contending that new law will encourage transparency as allocation would be made through e-auction, he said the effort was to undo the damage caused during the previous UPA government when coal blocks were “given free”. Responding to concerns about the workers’ welfare, Goyal said there are enough laws to protect their interest and the new law will give maximum benefits to the people displaced by coal mine projects.

Members from parties like Congress, TMC,  BJD and Left demanded that the bill should be referred to the Standing Committee for a thorough scrutiny. Initiating the debate on the bill moved two days ago by Coal Minister Piyush Goyal, Congress member Jyotiraditya Scindia said while land issues remained unresolved, there was no clarity on how many blocks and which ones would be put up for auction. There is also no provision in the bill to improve the living standards of the lakhs of workers, he said. “The proposed amendments are not required to auction the 74 coal blocks. This bill must be sent to the standing committee,” he added.

TMC’s Kalyan Banerjee also demanded that the legislation be sent to the standing committee for a thorough discussion as several lacunae remained in the measure. Members of AIADMK and BJD cautioned the government to avoid another scam in the coal sector as was witnessed during the UPA regime.
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