Coal Cess: Centre wants panel in West Bengal; government terms it ‘encroachment’

Union Power Minister Piyush Goel on Monday said that a five-member committee would be formed to look into high coal cess charged by the state government

By: Express News Service | Kolkata | Published: August 23, 2016 7:34:36 am
Piyush Goel 759 (From left) Union Power Minister Piyush Goel with his state counterpart Sovandeb Chattopadhyay and Power Advisor Manish Gupta in Kolkata on Monday. Express Photo

Union Power Minister Piyush Goel on Monday said that a five-member committee would be formed to look into high coal cess charged by the state government which in turn, termed the move as an “encroachment” by the Centre.

“The committee would be led by the state power secretary and include Coal India directors for marketing and finance. I want to bring parity between Bengal and other states where there is 14 per cent royalty system. The committee would inquire and submit a report within four weeks elaborating on how the state is imposing 25 per cent cess in coal extraction, and what are the benefits and losses from it,” Goel said after a meeting with state Power Minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay and power advisor Manish Gupta.

“If 14 per cent royalty, which is imposed by other states, is applied to West Bengal, I think the state will be benefitted as the production of coal will rise and overall revenue will rise, which in turn will boost ancillary industries creating many more job opportunities. Power cost too will come down and help the industry,” Goyal added.

While Chattopadhyay welcomed the suggestion, former power minister and present advisor in the power sector, Manish Gupta called Goyal’s statement an “encroachment in the state’s domain”, echoing Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s accusation that the Centre was “bulldozing” the federal structure.”It (committee) is a suggestion. But, we see this an encroachment in the state’s domain. In the state coal cess revenue is linked to development like primary education and others. It will hurt our revenues,” Gupta said,

“Our state should get some edge as it has the maximum number of coal blocks. The Centre has itself been increasing price of coal in a drastic manner, along with rise in coal cess by Rs 200 to total Rs 400 per tonne recently,” he said. He added that if the Centre is keen on reducing coal price, it should reduce coal cess and freight cost of railway transportation instead of touching the state’s revenue.

On the country’s largest coal block Deocha-Pachami, Goyal said that “with so many players, there would be difficulties to mine the block. We are exploring and trying to provide some other blocks to some of the states which got the allocation in Deocha-Pachami. The process is to simplify the mining operations in Deocha Pachami”.

The block has been offered jointly to West Bengal, Bihar, Punjab, UP, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and PSU Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam. A special purpose vehicle, Bengal Birbhum Coalfields Ltd, has been created to develop the block that has 2,000 MT of coal.

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