The CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat has said there was no difference between the Congress and the BJP in their approach to the coal sector since both were in favour of allowing the private sector to loot the coal resources of the country.

The Congress could see no merit in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) holding that coal allocation to private sector had caused a colossal loss to the exchequer. The BJP, on the other hand, wanted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to resign in the face of the CAG finding. And a stand off was going on in the Parliament over the issue for the last couple of weeks, he said while inaugurating a seminar organised in connection with the birth centenary of Communist leader P. Sundarayya in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.

He said it was during the tenure of the BJP-led government at the Centre that private sector was first allowed into coal mining sector. When in power, both the Congress and the BJP had put in efforts to dilute the 1973 legislation under which the then Indira Gandhi government nationalised the coal sector. That legislation was still intact, thanks to the strong resistance put up by the Leftist trade unions against a move in 2003 to change it. Workers went on strike and the plan had to be abandoned.

Mr. Karat said backdoor methods were subsequently on to allow private sector into coal by permitting captive mining. He said allowing mine allocation through the competitive bidding route too would not serve the national interests since companies with deep pockets would corner for themselves the coal resources. They would decide the terms that would be only to their advantage.

He said all national resources such as coal, natural gas and the spectrum should remain in the public sector. Eighty-five per cent of the coal mining in the country was being done by Coal India, the public sector entity. It should mine and supply coal to the power sector and other industries.

More In: National | News | States | Kerala