Updated: June 19, 2020 12:58:21 am
Announcing the auction of 41 coal blocks for commercial mining, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the decision would bring the coal sector out of “decades of lockdown”, adding India had the world’s fourth-largest reserves of coal and should aim to become the top exporter of the commodity. He also said the move was a major step towards self-reliance.
“… 41 coal blocks will be put up on sale for commercial mining,” the PM said at the launch event. He added the auction was “taking place at a time when business activity in India is normalising rapidly. Consumption and demand are rapidly approaching the pre-COVID levels”.
The coal mines being auctioned are located in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha. They include partially and fully explored mines. The auction process will be a two-stage tender process with technical and financial bidding.
The government had earlier announced the commercialisation of coal as part of the announcements in the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan. In previous auctions, only end users of coal, such as companies in the iron and steel and power sectors, were permitted to bid on coal blocks.
India is expected to save around Rs 30,000 crore annually on import bill of thermal coal on account of commercial mining of blocks, Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi said. On the issue of the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on the economy, the PM said the country will fight the outbreak and win against it. “India is not in favour of considering this as a big calamity and sit and cry over it. Howsoever big calamity it might be, India is committed to turning it into an opportunity.”
E-way bills have seen about 200 per cent rise when compared with April. Also, road and highway toll collection in June has reached 70 per cent of the pre-COVID levels of February, while railway freight tariff in May has seen an improvement of 26 per cent over April. Digital transactions too have witnessed a rise in both volume and value terms.
“These indicators point to the economy fast preparing to bounce back,” Modi said, adding, “India has come out of big crises in the past and it will come out of the present one as well.”
The Prime Minister announced that the government would invest Rs 50,000 crore on infrastructure for coal extraction and transportation, noting that the commercialisation of coal would help aspirational districts in eastern and central India.
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