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Flaying Centre’s Decisions to ‘Dismantle’ CIL, Coal Workers’ Federation Call for Month-Long Agitation

Ronak Chhabra |
The decision was taken during the recently held two-day national meeting of the All India Coal Workers’ Federation in Jharkhand’s Ranchi. The agitation is set to begin on June 15.
coal workers

New Delhi: Registering their opposition to the disinvestment of the company's stakes in the coking coal mine operator of Coal India Limited (CIL), separation of the latter's subsidiaries, and monetisation of its mining assets, the All India Coal Workers’ Federation (AICWF) has called for a month-long agitation, that is set to be launched from June 15.

The decision was taken during the recently held two-day national meeting of the AICWF in Jharkhand’s Ranchi. The federation flayed the Narendra Modi – led Central government for its recent policy decision, which, according to the former, is directed towards "completely dismantling" the CIL.

A state-owned maharatna company, CIL is the single largest coal producer globally. As of April 2020, it has over 350 mines spread through its subsidiaries in 84 mining areas across eight states. It accounts for over 80% of domestic coal output.

In a telephone interview on Monday, the coal miners in all of CIL's subsidiaries will be participating in the agitation campaign, DD Ramanandan, general secretary, AICWF, told NewsClick. "We believe the recent decisions will lead to the privatisation of coal companies. During the agitation, the coal workers will hold gate meetings, rallies, and dharnas at different places for a month,” he said.

The agitation campaign has been called to spread awareness among the coal workers and prepare them for a "long struggle," Ramanandan added.

Earlier this week, Union Coal Ministry floated a draft cabinet note for seeking inter-ministerial views on the proposal to list 25%shares of CIL's arm, Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL), NDTV reported.

Taken as part of CIL restructuring, last month, a decision was taken by the company's management to disinvest 25% of its stakes in the Public Sector Undertaking (PSU), engaged in mining of coal and allied activities, operating in the Jharia and Raniganj coalfields.

Drawing flak from labour unions, the Union Coal Ministry is also considering the merger of CIL’s exploration and mine planning arm, Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDI) and Nagpur-based Mineral Exploration Corporation Limited (MECL).

The former provides crucial support to CIL, according to a The Times of India (ToI) report, by exploring new coal reserves, planning and designing mines and offering technical expertise.

The number of these decisions taken by the Modi government is aimed at "completely dismantling" the CIL, Tapan Sen, general secretary, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), told NewsClick on Monday. "All these are happening to benefit the private players eventually," he claimed.

Sen, who attended the AICWF’s recently held meeting in Ranchi, underscored that the federation is also protesting against the controversial National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP), under which the Centre has reportedly identified 160 coal mining assets worth an estimated Rs 28,747 crore for monetisation over four years till FY25.

Asked about it, Ramanandan on Monday shared the federation's fears that "many of the good running mines" will also see private-sector participation, which will affect the profits recorded by CIL.

Announced in August last year, the NMP, which involves transferring revenue rights to private players for a specified period, has been flayed by not just coal miners but railwaymen and public sector telecom employees in the country as well.

The Centre seeks to generate upfront investments or revenues worth Rs. 6 lakh crore in four years, beginning from FY22, by monetisation of assets in road, railways, power, mining, aviation, ports, warehouses, and stadiums, among other sectors.

“We are confident that the month-long agitation of coal workers will also find support from other sectoral federations in the country. The AICWF will meet once again later next month to decide further course of action, which may also include a strike action if issues raised by the unions remain unaddressed," Sen claimed.

Meanwhile, the AICWF is also pressing for wage revision of the CIL workers, which has been due since July last year. The federation is demanding a meeting of the Joint Bipartite Committee for the Coal Industry, which negotiates and decides the wages of workers in the coal industry.

Last year, in a joint charter of demands submitted by the trade unions to the Committee, the workers demanded a 50% hike in the minimum guaranteed benefits to coal workers of all grades, among others.

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