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Divided unions could see CIL divestment plan sail through

Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh ‘under pressure’ to boycott strike.

Written by Priyadarshi Siddhanta | New Delhi | Published: November 21, 2014 3:21:37 am

One out of the five Coal India (CIL) trade unions may buckle under “political pressure” to boycott a strike called by the other four, which could pave the way for the government to carry on with its plan to divest 10 per cent stake in the state-run company and potentially raise around Rs 20,000 crore.

A top official of a prominent trade union of CIL has told The Indian Express that the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh is under “political pressure” to boycott the strike called on November 24 against disinvestment and allowing commercial mining of coal.

CIL’s other four unions — INTUC, HMS, CITU and AITUC —had served a notice for a one-day token strike on November 24, demanding withdrawal of the enabling clause in the Coal Mines Ordinance, 2014, which allows commercial mining by private companies, and divestment of at least 10 per cent stake in the state-run company.

“They (the BMS) seem to be under are under political pressure to be away from the strike though they are also opposed to disinvestment of CIL,” Jibon Roy, general secretary of the All India Coal Workers Federation told this newspaper on Thursday.

Intense opposition by these unions last year thwarted the UPA regime’s attempt to sell stake in the state-run company.

If the strike call goes through, the impact would be felt on operations at collieries in 33 districts, which translates to over 1.5 million tonnes of output in a single day.

Talking to this newspaper over telephone, BMS President Baij Nath Rai denied any political pressure on his organisation to be away from the strike. “The plan was to convene a meeting of all unions where a joint strategy was to be discussed on how to proceed with the strike. Instead, other unions decided to go on the strike without involving us. We are not part of the BJP, though we are friendly to it. So there is no question of any pressure on us,” Rai said.

The BMS remains opposed to disinvestment and allowing commercial mining of coal, he said.

Officials have already conducted roadshows in the United States and roadshows will follow this week in London and Singapore. According to a source in the company, BMS has clout in South Eastern Coalfields, Western Coalfields and some mining areas of Central Coalfields.

Coal minister Piyush Goyal had recently asked the company management to submit an blueprint to improve output by over 100 MT in a year.

CIL has missed its output target for the fifth consecutive month in September producing 34.88 MT of fuel against a targeted 36.17 MT.

CIL, which accounts for 80 per cent of domestic coal output, missed its output target of 482 million tonnes for 2013-14, producing 462 million tonnes during the period, which, a senior coal ministry official said is a matter of serious concern.

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