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Lok Sabha passes Coal Mines Bill

The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, which replaces an ordinance, was brought in the wake of the Supreme Court order cancelling the allocation of 204 coal blocks on September 24 and resetting the agenda for their allocation.

Lok Sabha passes Coal Mines Bill

The Lok Sabha on Friday passed the Coal Mines Bill amid attack from the Opposition. The Opposition was demanding that the legislation, which had many lacunae like those relating to land acquisition and workers’ welfare, should be sent to Parliamentary Standing Committee for scrutiny.

The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, which replaces an ordinance, was brought in the wake of the Supreme Court order cancelling the allocation of 204 coal blocks on September 24 and resetting the agenda for their allocation.

The ordinance was issued in October to facilitate auctioning of the cancelled blocks. In the first round, 74 blocks are to be auctioned by the government. Initiating the debate on the bill moved two days ago by Coal Minister Piyush Goyal, Congress member Jyotiraditya Scindia said while land issues remained unresolved, there was no clarity on how many blocks and which ones would be put up for auction. There is also no provision in the bill to improve the living standards of the lakhs of coal workers, he said.

“The proposed amendments are not required to auction the 74 coal blocks … This bill must be sent to the standing committee,” Scindia said while speaking on the ‘Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014’.

Trinamool Congress member Kalyan Banerjee also demanded that the legislation be sent to the standing committee for a thorough discussion as several lacunae remained in the measure. Members of AIADMK and BJD cautioned the government to avoid another scam in the coal sector as was witnessed during the UPA regime. Maintaining that the bill “makes a mockery of the Supreme Court ruling”, Scindia, a former Power Minister, said “this is a wonderful opportunity to recast the coal sector” and indicated that it has been wasted.

Noting that there was a need for reforming the coal sector, he also suggested restructuring of state-run  Coal India Ltd (CIL), which accounts for about 80 per cent of the country’s coal production. Wondering as to how the government was going to ramp up coal production to one billion tonnes by 2019, Scindia said currently there is coal crisis and as much as USD 16 billion is spent on importing the dry fuel.

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