Decision soon on regulator for sector, says Chidambaram

Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal told reporters here on Friday that the process for transparent and just allocation of 58 new coal blocks through competitive bidding had been initiated, but it would not be possible to launch it this year as the exercise took time.

“The UPA government believes in transparency. All the blocks to be allocated through auction have been identified and once CRISIL submits its report on the methodology to determine the reserve price for the 54 mines, the process would begin,” Mr. Jaiswal said.

He said steps were being taken to ensure there were no lacunae in the process. “The intentions of the government can be gauged from the fact that not only had it initiated the process for competitive bidding even before the CAG report, it had also decided not to allocate any blocks till the new system is in place. We have drawn up a road map that will ensure things are done in an open and transparent manner.”

Report in 3 months

Global firm CRISIL had emerged as the lowest bidder for the Coal Ministry’s contract to prepare the methodology for determining the reserve price for the auctions. The Ministry had asked it to submit its report in three months. It has identified 54 coal blocks for various sectors, including 16 for power, 12 for steel and 12 for government firms.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said CRISIL was preparing the document. “We have asked them [CRISIL] to expedite the bidding process. Bidding documents are being prepared in consultation with the State governments. Once the documents are finalised, the new policy will come into effect. We are trying to quicken the process as much as possible,’’ he said.

Mr. Chidambaram, who is heading the Group of Ministers (GoM) to decide on a regulator for the coal sector, said the GoM had met once and identified certain areas where work needed to be done.

“We are identifying the aspects which should be with the coal regulator and aspects which should not be with the regulator. The bill is being redrafted. I am confident that it will come back to the GoM shortly and I assure you that in one more meeting of the GoM, we will wrap it up and take it to the Cabinet. We certainly don’t want the coal regulator to become the old coal control. I hope all of you agree that you want regulation, not licensing control,’’ he said.

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