Lok Sabha passes coal allocation bill

New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the coal allocation bill providing for vesting mining leases to successful bidders through a transparent bidding process.

Representational Pic

Replying to the debate on the bill, Coal Minister Piyush Goyal said there was no provision for denationalization and workers interests will not be compromised.

He said the bill has been brought to ensure continuity in coal mining operations and for promoting optimum utilization of coal resources.

The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015, provides for allocation of coal mines and vesting the right, title and interest over mine infrastructure together with mining leases to successful bidders through a transparent bidding process. Before the house passed the bill, amendments sponsored by the opposition were negatived.

The bill replaces an ordinance brought by the government in the inter-session period.

"The requirement of all public sector units has been taken care of. State governments are also getting their requirement," Goyal said.

Meanwhile, leading wire rope-maker Usha Martin submitted the closing bid of Rs.1,804 per tonne for the Brinda and Sasai block in Jharkhand as the second round of auctions began Wednesday of the coal blocks whose allotments were cancelled by the Supreme Court.

The Brinda and Sasai block was earlier allotted to Abhijeet Infrastructure and has extractable reserves of 15.2 million tonnes.

Two other mines in Jharkhand - Jitpur and Moitra - are on also offer with firms like Adani Power, JSW Steel, SAIL and BALCO in the race. The process for these blocks would be closed by the end of the day.

The companies vying for Jitpur mine - reserved for the power sector - are Adani Power, Adhunik Power and Natural Resources, Jaiprakash Power Ventures and Jindal Power. The mine was earlier allocated to Jindal Steel & Power.

For the Moitra mine - reserved for the non-power sector - the companies in the race are Jayaswal Neco Industries, JSW Steel and SAIL. It was earlier allotted to Jayaswal Neco.

Speaking at the school of international and public affairs New York's Columbia University on Monday Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the yields of upto one lakh crore from the first few ongoing coal block auctions was proof of the improved governance brought in by the NDA coalition.

"The controversial ordinances, on insurance, coal and on minerals (bills to replace which are tabled in the Lok Sabha), the proof of the pudding is in the eating, that we have actually implemented some of these and seen the consequences for the system itself," Jaitley said.

He added that the coal mine auctions would raise much more money, underlying the fact that what the Comptroller and Auditor General had said about coal block allocation losses of Rs 1.86 lakh crore was indeed an "underestimation." The CAG statement during the UPA government had led to a political uproar in the country and the opposition had painted the ruling party as being tainted with corruption.

Pointing out how the earlier system of a screening committee making allotments had been struck down by the apex court for being arbitrary and totally discretionary, Jaitley said that "it now appears that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) was not being harsh".

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