In view of the impending reshuffle of the Union Council of Ministers, the crucial meeting convened by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to sort out differences between the Ministries of Environment and Forests, Coal and Power was postponed for the second time in a month.
Although there was no official word on the postponement of the meeting, officials said it had been done in view of the talk of Prime Minister likely to go in for a reshuffle of the Union Cabinet in the next few days indicating possible changes in these Ministries.
The meeting had been called to sort out the differences between the various Ministries over grant of clearances for infrastructure projects including coal and power projects by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. It was expected that with the intervention of the Prime Minister, the tussle between the various Ministries would have been sorted out paving way for clearance of certain mining and power projects.
Incidentally, the meeting, which has been put off for the fourth time since May, was also to deliberate on a strategy for the terminal year of the 11th Plan for these key infrastructure sectors. The Government data clearly indicates that the performance of the power and coal sectors has been found wanting in the current Plan period. However, both the Coal and Power Ministries have squarely put the blame on the Jairam Ramesh-led environment Ministry for delaying approvals, citing green norms, thereby affecting key projects in their sectors.
According to an estimate made by the Planning Commission, the demand-supply gap for coal in the ongoing year, which is also the terminal year of current Five-Year Plan, has been assessed at 142 million tonnes with domestic availability of only 554 million tonnes against the requirement of 696 million tonnes.
A Group of Ministers (GoM) on Coal, headed by Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee is already on the job to find a common ground between the MoEF on the one hand and Coal, Power and Steel Ministries on the other.