Economy

Centre worried over uncertainty on Coal Bill

AM Jigeesh Richa Mishra New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on December 16, 2014

Opposition in Rajya Sabha says ‘no hurry’





With just five working days left for the Parliament session to end, the Coal Ministry is worried about the fate of the Coal Bill in the Upper House, where the Government is in minority.

According to elders, the Bill, passed in the Lok Sabha, should not be hurried, and almost all the Opposition parties are coming together to send the Bill to a select committee.

The Business Advisory Committee of the Rajya Sabha is to meet on Thursday to decide when the Bill, which is to replace the Coal Mines (Special Provision) Ordinance, will be taken up. The Ordinance is valid till January 5.

If the Government fails to get the Bill passed in this session, which ends on December 23, the option available is to re-promulgate the Ordinance.

Asked whether, the delay in passage of the Bill will impact the coal block’s auctioning/allocation timeline drawn by the Ministry, a senior official said, “We hope to meet the timeline.” The Ministry expects to float the tender documents by December 22-23 and the bid due date is March 3, 2015. By March 16, the Ministry hopes to close the entire process.

The Congress leadership in the Upper House has reached out to other Opposition parties on the Bill. The Congress’s main concern is that the Bill does not have provisions to ensure the support of States before auctioning of coal mines.

It feels that the present clauses are not enough to auction the 92 coal blocks. The party also feels that the Bill has nothing to reduce the coal deficit. It also does not speak about measures to make the mining process much more scientific and cost efficient and that the input prices are the lowest for the regulated sectors.

The Congress is gathering other parties citing that certain provisions of the Bill are against the federal principles. Parties such as Trinamool Congress, Left parties and the Biju Janata Dal have already cautioned the Centre against the Bill. The Congress has approached the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, AIADMK and DMK for supporting its stand that the Bill must be studied by a select committee.

The Bill, in its present form, also protects Government officials involved in allotting coal blocks from prosecutions and legal proceedings. It stipulates that a private sector entity cannot own more than 26 per cent in public-private joint ventures in case of coal block allocations.

However, if there is more than one private sector entity in a venture, then their total stake should not exceed 49 per cent. The Bill also prohibits government companies from alienating or transferring any interest in such joint ventures by taking loans or advances from banks or financial institutions.

The need for such a law arose after the Supreme Court on September 24 de-allocated 204 blocks given between 1993 and 2010.

Published on December 16, 2014
null
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor