The Lok Sabha on Friday passed a Bill which paves the way for the auction of 204 coal blocks, amidst the Opposition’s demand to refer the legislation to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for scrutiny.
The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, which replaces an Ordinance promulgated in October, was passed by voice vote. The Ordinance, was brought after the Supreme Court cancelled the allocation of 204 coal blocks on September 24.
The Bill envisages “allocation of coal mines and vesting of the right, title and interest in and over the land and mine infrastructure, together with mining leases, to successful bidders and allottees through a transparent bidding process.” Replying to concerns raised by MPs from Trinamool Congress, BJD and left parties that the legislation paves the way for de-nationalisation of coal mines, coal minister Piyush Goyal said that the Bill seeks to strengthen Coal India. He said that new law will encourage transparency as allocation would be made via e-auction.
On the concerns about the mine workers’ welfare, the minister said there are enough laws to protect their interests and the new law will also give maximum benefits to the people displaced by coal mining. Goyal added that timely action by the government would benefit the coal-producing states of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa and West Bengal, besides benefiting the power sector and consumers.
Opposing the legislation, former power minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said the Bill “makes a mockery of the Supreme Court ruling” and a “wonderful opportunity to recast the sector” should not go wasted. He suggested having one policy for the regulated sector and another for the unregulated one.
“For the regulated sector, we must set a ceiling price with a reverse auction. For the unregulated sector, it must be a full-fledged auction with the revenue maximising auction process,” he contended. The Bill on coal block allocation will not lead to higher electricity tariff for consumers. Instead, the prices could come down, Goyal said.