Coal auction bill gets LS approval

Won't de-nationalise the sector, govt assures Oppn

Coal auction bill gets LS approval

The Lok Sabha on Friday passed a bill to replace an ordinance which was recently promulgated by the government to continue supply of coal to power, steel and cement companies in the wake of a Supreme Court order cancelling 204 coal mining licences issued since 1993.

The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014, which seeks to carry out fresh auction of the coal blocks de-allocated by the apex court, was passed by voice vote after a discussion, even as the Opposition strongly objected to some of its provisions and suggested for sending it to a parliamentary standing committee for its scrutiny.

Before the bill was passed, Coal Minister Piyush Goyal assured the House that implementation of the proposed legislation will bring down the power prices and benefit consumers.

He also sought to allay apprehensions of some of the members of the opposition parties, including the Trinamool Congress (TMC), that the legislation would lead to “de-nationalisation” of the sector.

“The meaning of ‘de-nationalise’ in dictionaries is to remove an industry from government ownership or control. I am unable to understand which provision there (in the bill) provides for it. In fact, we are strengthening Coal India (by this legislation),” he said.

The Union minister assured the members that the government would ensure transparency in allocation of coal blocks through the implementation of the legislation and clearances for mining and related activities at coal blocks would be faster.

“Lakhs of crores of rupees would be going to the coal producing states. It will also benefit consumers,” he said. Describing the bill as “historic”, he said it was an effort of the Narendra Modi led government to undo the damage caused during the United Progressive Alliance regime during coal blocks were “given (for) free”.

While the Congress, Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Left parties sought that the bill should be sent to parliamentary standing committee before it was passed, the AIADMK cautioned the government that it should avoid scams in the coal sector as was witnessed during the United Progressive Alliance regime.

Initiating the debate, Congress leader and former power minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said the bill made a “mockery of the Supreme Court ruling”, suggesting that a “wonderful opportunity” to recast the coal sector was being wasted.

BJD member Tathagata Satpathy doubted the government’s intention behind bringing the bill, saying it could be to give benefit to some “select entities”. “The bill should not be rushed. Let it be referred to the Standing Committee,” the BJD member sought.

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