Pained that India’s rich coal belt was afflicted by naxalism and mafia, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal today vowed to eliminate mafia. However, he said tackling naxalism was beyond his domain.
“Unfortunately, the coal producing areas are affected by twin problems of naxalism and mafia. Naxal problem is not in my domain. So, I cannot do anything about it. But, I will focus on the other problem. I want to end the mafia (raj),” he told PTI.
Mafia, pilferage and theft are eating into productivity and profitability of the coal companies at the cost of the nation, the minister said, adding that eliminating these were his top priority in the second term of UPA-II, which has completed one year in office.
“I can’t say... when I will be able to bring normalcy in the sector” he said pointing out that the sector has been besieged by the evil of crime and mafia for over three decades.
“I will take time to cleanse the system... I don’t know how much time it will take... I will do everything to weed the evil out,” he said when asked about the impediments created due to a nexus between mafia, officials and politicians.
Majority of the coal producing belt in the country is dominated by mafia operations, according to trade unions in the coal sector.
“At least 10,000 mafia groups operate in the country mostly concentrating in Coal India Ltd collieries and the annual plunder is not less than 5-6 million tonnes causing huge loss to the state exchequer,” former MP and trade union leader Jibon Roy said.
India is home to cumulative coal reserves of 267 billion tonnes, the largest in the world, and the fossil fuel accounts for 55 per cent of the country’s energy needs.
Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa are the main coal producing states and also happen to be naxal-infested states.
Mr. Roy, who had been a member of the Standing Committee on Coal and, at present, is the CITU General Secretary alleged the nexus included that of executive from the coal companies, bureaucrats, police and criminals.
Mafia operations are more rampant in CIL subsidiaries like Central Coalfields Ltd, Bharat Coking Coal Ltd, Eastern Coalfields Ltd and SCEL, he said pointing out that the coal mafia virtually ran a parallel administration there.
State-owned CIL, which accounts for over 80 per cent of the domestic coal production through its seven subsidiaries, marginally missed its output target of 435 million tonnes in 2009-10.