Pala asks Centre to privatize all coal mines in country

From CK Nayak

Congress MPs protest against BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj’s remarks on Nathuram Godse near Mahatma Gandhi’s statue outside Parliament in New Delhi on Friday.
Also seen in the picture is Lok Sabha member from Shillong Vincent H. Pala.
The BJP MP had on Thursday described Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin
Godse as a ‘patriot’. (PTI)

Shillong MP seeks amendments to Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014

New Delhi: Lok Sabha member from Shillong, Vincent H. Pala, on Friday moved a private member’s bill on the ban on coal mining and sought amendments in the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014, which was passed by the Lok Sabha amid stiff resistance from the opposition parties led by the Congress.

The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, which replaces an ordinance, was made effective in the wake of the Supreme Court order on September 24 cancelling the allocation of 204 coal blocks and resetting the agenda for their allocation.

The ordinance was issued in October to facilitate auctioning of the cancelled blocks. In the first round, 74 coal blocks are to be auctioned by the government.

Pala in his submission demanded for total privatization of all coal mines instead of just captive mines to meet the huge demand.

He said that there was a huge gap between the demand and supply of coal in the country and this bill would only aggravate the critical scenario in sectors like cement and power.

The Opposition was demanding that the legislation, which had many lacunae like those relating to land acquisition and workers’ welfare, should be sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for scrutiny. Initiating the debate on the bill moved two days ago by Coal Minister Piyush Goyal, Congress member Jyotiraditya Scindia observed that while land issues remained unresolved, there was no clarity on how many blocks and which ones would be put up for auction.

There is also no provision in the bill to improve the living standards of the lakhs of coal workers, he said. “The proposed amendments are not required to auction the 74 coal blocks. This bill must be sent to the standing committee,” Scindia said.

Pala also demanded for special provisions for coal mining in North East which is done in a small scale. Speaking about the NGT ban on rat hole mining in Meghalaya Pala said that because of this harsh step life has come to a standstill in the hill state affecting lakhs of poor people.

This also has affected the 800 core revenue of the Meghalaya Government, Pala said.

As it is, there is a separate provision for mining in the Sixth Schedule areas of the North East giving ownership of both underground and over ground assets on land to the tribals, he said.

Members of AIADMK and BJD cautioned the government to avoid another scam in the coal sector as was witnessed during the UPA regime. Scindia, a former Power Minister, maintained that the bill ‘makes a mockery of the Supreme Court ruling’.

The Lok Sabha member from Shillong also gave a specific example of Goa where the Supreme Court first banned mining and then lifted the same resulting in immense damage to the small state and its people. Pala was of the view that the authority of the Judiciary over the domain of the Executive and Legislature should be maintained.