The interview for the post of chairman of Coal India Ltd (CIL) is set to be taken by the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) on November 25 with seven candidates slated to appear for the interview as of now.

In May, the PESB had advertised the vacancy which would be caused by the retirement of the present incumbent P. S. Bhattacharyya who would lay down office on February 28, 2011.

There are four ‘internal' candidates, of which three are from CIL subsidiaries. P. K. Lahiry, Chairman and Managing Director of Bharat Coking Coal Ltd, V. K. Singh, Chief of Northern Coalfields Ltd (NCL), and D. C. Garg, CMD of Western Coalfields Ltd.

From CIL, its director, personnel and industrial relations, R. Mohandass is also scheduled to face the PESB.

From outside the aspirants are: the Director Finance of National Aluminium Company B. L. Bagra, Director Finance of NHPC A. B. L. Srivastava, and the Managing Director of Kolkata-based Braithwaite, which has been taken over by the Railways.

Available information suggests that while Mr. Garg and Mr. Singh would be among the most senior to take the interview, there are certain problems regarding their performance records. In the case of Mr. Singh, while NCL was among the star-performers of CIL, its performance of late has not been so stellar. It missed its half-yearly production target by 5.34 million tonnes and is set to miss the year's target too according to a recent evaluation.

Mr. Garg too faces discomfort over the recent flooding of the 3.5-million tonne capacity Umrer open cast mine which has had to be closed down. Mr. Lahiry, on the other hand, has among his credits, sustaining the turnaround at BCCL, a perennial loser. The company is expecting a record Rs.1,000-crore profit this fiscal against Rs.760 crore in 2009-10 and is also expected to surpass its annual production although it has trailed its half-yearly target marginally.

Mr. Mohandass' credits include the successful negotiation of the eight National Coal Wage Agreements.

The interview takes place amid a buzz that the present incumbent's tenure is extended by around a year. It is widely felt that there was need for some continuity as CIL is at an inflexion point now since its listing earlier this month and would have to perform in an increasingly transparent manner while conforming to international standards of corporate governance.

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