PM kick-starts virtual auction of 41 coal blocks

Big step towards self-reliance, he says

June 18, 2020 10:36 pm | Updated 10:45 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday unveiled the auction process of 41 coal blocks for commercial mining through video-conference. A two-stage e-auction is being adopted for the allocation of mines.

The decision was part of the announcements made by the Centre under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.

Mr. Modi said the country’s economic activity was fast returning to normal, with consumption and demand attaining the pre-pandemic levels. The rural economy had also started looking up, with the area under kharif crops and wheat procurement increasing this year. These were signs that the economy was ready to bounce back and march ahead, he said.

The Prime Minister said a self-reliant India meant reducing dependency and saving foreign currency on imports by developing resources domestically. It also meant India becoming the biggest exporter of commodities that it was now importing. To achieve this, Mr. Modi said, each sector, each product and each service had to be worked upon holistically. The auction for commercial mining was a major step towards making India self-reliant in the energy sector.

Mr. Modi said the launch marked not only the implementation of reforms to the coal mining sector but also the beginning of creation of lakhs of jobs. It liberated the sector from decades of ‘lockdown’.

The government had decided to spend ₹50,000 crore on creating infrastructure for coal extraction and transport. This would also create job opportunities for locals closer to their homes. He said 16 ‘aspirational’ districts had a huge stock of coal, but the locals, who did not benefit from it, had to migrate to far-flung cities for jobs.

The Prime Minister said that reforms and investment in the coal sector would also help to ease the lives of tribals. The extra revenue generated through coal production would be spent on welfare schemes. He said States generating more revenue would continue to get help from the District Mineral Fund, a major chunk of which would be used to develop essential facilities in the surrounding areas.

Mr. Modi said it was an irony that India having the world’s fourth largest coal reserve and being the second largest producer was the second largest coal importer. The sector had been kept out of competition and devoid of transparency, hampering investment and efficiency.

In 2014, the government introduced coal linkage to give an impetus to the sector. Fully opening up the sector would increase competition, capital, participation and technology, said Mr. Modi. It would ensure new private players did not face the problem of finance, he said.

The Prime Minister said the reforms would be a win-win for all stakeholders. It would make the sector self-reliant and benefit other sectors, including steel, aluminium, fertilizer and cement. It would also help to increase power generation.

While implementing the reforms, he said, the country’s commitment to protect the environment would not weaken. The environment would be protected with steps like coal gasification.

The government has set a target to gasify around 100 million tonnes of coal by 2030 and four projects have been identified, in which ₹20,000 crore will be invested.

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