An estimated five lakh employees in the coal industry will begin a five-day nationwide strike on Tuesday to denounce moves towards commercial mining of the fuel.
A senior union leader warned that the strike may hit power supply in the country.
Coal workers and unions across the country are bitterly opposed to the coal block allocation ordinance that they say could lead commercial mining of the fuel.
“It is time for coal workers to do or die,” thundered the Indian National Mineworkers Federation.
According to Shyamal Dutta of Coal India Workers Federation, the industry employs around five lakh people.
All central trade unions have urged workers of Coal India Ltd. (CIL) and its subsidiaries and the Singareni Collieries Co. Ltd. (SCCL) to launch the strike from first shift on January 6 to third shift of January 10 “in most militant manner”.
State-miner Coal India has near monopoly over coal production, accounting for nearly 82 percent of domestic output.
All five major unions of CIL - Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), and Hind Mazdoor Sangh - boycotted a meeting called Saturday by Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal.
“The government is bent upon diluting and gradually denationalising CIL and SCCL,” INTUC said in a statement.
Added AITUC general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta: “This will probably be the biggest ever strike in the industry. Power sector may be hit by the prolonged strike.”
After the Supreme Court cancelled 204 coal block allocations made between 1993 and 2010, the government in October promulgated the Coal Ordinance (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014, for their re-allocation and e-auction, the tender process for which was set in motion last week.
Meanwhile, turning down suggestions for restructuring Coal India, the Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu-headed advisory group on integrated development of power, coal and renewable energy has instead recommended empowerment of the company’s subsidiaries.
“Several options regarding the restructuring of Coal India were discussed. It was agreed that no major restructuring was required, at least in the short term,” said the group’s report.
“The subsidiaries may be given adequate delegation of power, capital expenditure and operational flexibility, along with commensurate accountability, so that their dependence on CIL for decision making does not hamper fulfilment of targets set out for them,” it added.