Alongside the Prime Minister’s Office that is constantly reviewing the coal sector’s performance, the Cabinet Secretariat has also stepped in. It has asked the nodal Coal Ministry to send its response on how production can be ramped up in the short term.

Coal Secretary S. K. Srivastava has been asked to immediately ‘identify specific bottlenecks’ to increasing coal production in the short term.

The Cabinet Secretariat has also asked the Ministry to furnish details of projects that are awaiting land acquisition, or forest and environment clearances, a Coal Ministry official told Business Line.

The sudden intervention by the Cabinet Secretariat is being seen as the outcome of repeated complaints from private power producers against short supply of domestic coal. The companies are not satisfied with the supply levels proposed by Coal India. Also, no consensus has been arrived at for pricing of imported coal.

In the first six months of 2012-13, Coal India achieved production of 191.57 million tonnes against the target of 198.74 million tonnes. However, its production is higher compared with 176.62 million tonnes in the same period last year.

Last month, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Pulok Chatterjee, reviewed the crucial issues related to coal supplies to power companies. The review, on October 10, was attended by Coal Secretary Srivastava, Coal India Chairman and Managing Director S. Narsing Rao and Joint Secretary, Power Ministry, I. C. P. Keshari, among others.

Chatterjee asked the stakeholders to ensure that fuel supply agreements (FSAs) were sealed latest by November 15.

The Cabinet Secretariat has also sought status reports on three rail infrastructure projects that were planned to evacuate coal. These include Tori-Shivpur-Kathotia in North Karanpura coal fields; Jharsuguda-Barpali in Gopalpur to Manoharpur in IB valley coal field and Bhupdeopur-Baroud in Mand Raigarh coalfieds.

“The Ministry has asked Coal India to furnish the details urgently. These will then be communicated to the Cabinet Secretariat,” the Coal Ministry official said.

(This article was published on November 6, 2012)
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