Trade unions and workers’ federation active in coal sector raised alarm on Thursday against the decision of the Union government to open up the coal mining in the country, now even to non-coal companies.
The workers’ outfits believe that the decision to amend the current provision in the law to allow any company meeting the minimum criteria to bid for coal mines “is against national interest”.
This has been achieved on January 8 by the union Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi approving promulgation of an ordinance to amend two laws—Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015.
DD Ramanandan, general secretary of CITU-affiliated All India Coal Workers Federation terms the decision as one “favouring” the corporates at the cost of the public sector. “In the name of gaining high-end technology, the Modi government is handing over nation’s energy sector to the private players—domestic and foreign.”
While privatisation of the coal sector will not do well for the profit-making state-owned undertakings, namely, Coal India Limited (CIL) and its subsidiary PSU, Singareni Collieries Company Ltd., Ramanandan also believes it will directly affect the job security of the coal workers. According to him, the long pending demand of regularisation of coal workers of all kind “will be further difficult”.
“Deploring” the January 8 decision of the Modi government, All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) also issued a statement.
“The Government does not want to remember that the Coal Industry in India had gone sick due to the loot by the private players and had to be nationalized in the interest of development. The nation
benefitted and the coal exploration in public sector was a boon for energy sector, railways, and
industrial growth in various sectors,” it said in the statement.
Speaking with NewsClick, AITUC General Secretary Amarjeet Kaur said that the Modi government is “hell-bent” on selling the national assets to the private players.
“The economy is gripped within the clutches of a crisis. The fiscal deficit has deepened. In such a scenario, instead of strengthening the public sector, the BJP government is filling up the coffers of the Indian corporates,” she said.
In 2018, the government had allowed commercial mining by private entities but non-coal companies couldn’t participate in the auction. Subsequently, in September last year, the government issued a notification allowing 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) for mining and sale of coal under the automatic route.
Protesting this, an estimated five lakh workers in over 600 mining establishments had observed a one-day strike on September 24 last year.
While the unions and federations have raised concerns, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), one of the apex trade associations of India, has welcomed the decision. Calling it a “major reform”, it said in a statement that the move will reduce India’s dependence on imported coal.