Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the auction process of coal blocks for commercial mining via video conference with an aim to achieve self-sufficiency in meeting energy needs and boost industrial development.
The process is open for domestic as well as global firms under the 100 percent FDI (foreign direct investment) route.
But, at the same time, some sections have raised concerns over the ecological impact of the move. Many questioning if the move towards an ‘Atmanirbhar’ Bharat could be at the cost of the country’s environment.
Though PM Modi did broadly say that while implementing coal reforms, it has been ensured that India's commitment to protect environment is not weakened.
Major step taken to make India self-reliant in the energy sector: PM
Prime Minister Modi said, “To make India self-reliant in the energy sector, a major step is being taken today. Today a historic decision has been taken that can change the face of the sector.”
As many as 41 coal blocks will be put up on sale for commercial mining. “The auction today is taking place at a time when business activity in India is normalizing rapidly. Consumption and demand are rapidly approaching the pre-COVID level. In such a situation, there cannot be a better time for a new beginning,” he added.
India has the fourth-largest coal reserves and the country is the second-largest producer of coal.
PM Modi said that India will get new resources from today’s step and the states will get higher revenue from coal sector liberalization. Along with the commercialization of coal mining, the government has also set a target to gasify around 100 million tonnes of coal by 2030.
PM Modi said that he has been informed about 4 projects that have been identified for this and about Rs 20,000 crores will be invested for coal gasification projects.
We have set a target to gasify around 100 million tonnes of coal by 2030. I've been told that four projects have been identified for this and about Rs 20,000 crore will be invested in them, he added.
The proposed auction has business-friendly terms and conditions, including reduced upfront amount, adjustment of upfront amount against royalty and liberal efficiency parameters to encourage flexibility to operationalise the coal mines.
Besides, 100% FDI through automatic route has been allowed and there are reasonable financial terms and revenue sharing model based on National Coal Index. The successful bidders will also have flexibility in coal production unlike the past and have provision for incentives for early production and coal gasification.
Nine sanpanchs and a janpad member of Podi Uproda Panchayat in Korba district wrote a letter to the prime minister on Tuesday and urged that current auctions be put on hold.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren wrote to the Union Coal and Mines Minister, demanding a moratorium of the auction process in the coal sector by six to nine months to ensure equitable sustainable mineral-based development in the state.
Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher at the CPR, said in an interview, “This centralised coal mine auctions open the fragile and biodiverse forest areas in constitutionally protected Scheduled V areas. The messaging of the auction process signals that the government sees these places as mere coal bearing areas from where projects interested in commercial coal mining will extract for private profit."