Prez signs coal ordinance; trade unions oppose move

Prez signs coal ordinance; trade unions oppose move
The long-awaited 'reforms' in the sector, a departure from the existing practice of allocation by a screening committee mechanism, got the go-ahead from President Pranab Mukherjee, who promulgated the Ordinance cleared by the Union Cabinet on Tuesday.

The Ordinance was warranted in the backdrop of the Supreme Court's order quashing 214 coal blocks allocated to various companies since 1993 on the ground that they were done in an illegal manner by an 'ad-hoc and casual' approach 'without application of mind'. Industry bodies hailed government's move and termed it as a step in the right direction. 'This is an important decision and highlights the government's seriousness to reform the coal sector. ... Through this move, the government has arrested concerns pertaining to diminishing coal supplies,' FICCI President Sidharth Birla said.

'The air of uncertainty has been resolved and clear roadmap has been put forward. CII believes that quick decision-making by the government sends the right signals,' CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee said.

Naveen Jindal-led JSPL, which is among the worst hit in the cancellation of the coal blocks, said it would participate in the auction process. JSW Steel also would 'definitely' take part, its Joint Managing Director Seshagiri Rao said.

Left parties and several trade unions opposed the e- auctioning of coal blocks and the enabling provision in the Ordinance that allows commercial mining by private firms and sought its reversal, warning of a nationwide strike if the Centre went ahead with the changes.  All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) General Secretary Gurudas Dasgupta said the decision of the government on coal blocks 'has a covert implication. It is a back-door entry for taking over the entire coal sector by the private corporates'.

The CPI(M) and the CPI said they fully supported the protest actions by the central trade unions and national federations of employees against the 'anti-worker' issues including proposals to amend labour laws.

All India Coal Workers Federation General Secretary Jibon Roy warned of a nationwide strike if the government implemented any enabling provision to allow commercial mining by private companies.

'To protest against the enabling provision and proposed e-auction, the workers would stage nationwide dharna on 5 to 7 November,' he said, demanding that the coal blocks be handed over to the state-run Coal India Limited. Allocation of coal blocks became a political issue after Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) alleged arbitrariness and absence of any criteria in the screening process and pegged notional loss to the exchequer at Rs 1.86 lakh crore.


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