Companies & Sectors
Coal mines: Transparency needed in allocation of blocks

A novel idea could be to announce the names of selected winners of the coal blocks, and provide a time frame of 30 clear working days within which, if anyone has any objection, he must subject the details, in writing, for a public scrutiny and debate

In the last one week, several issues relating to the coal industry have come into prominence.


First refers to the increased profits realized by Coal India Ltd due to higher volume and the profit soaring to Rs17,356.4 crore for the year ending 2012-13.  Production rose to 452 million tonnes (mt) but the despatches were higher at 465 mt due to apparently stocks lying at pitheads. Production target for current fiscal is at 492 mt.


CIL has also brought about change in the coal prices directly in relation to gross caloric value (GCV).  Those in the GCC of 6,000 to 6,300 will get a reduction of 12% while grades 2,200 to 6,000 GCV will be increased by 10%, with the effective average resulting in a 4.75% increase in coal prices.


Second concerns the original plans of CIL, who really do not have a direct experience, to import 16 to 20 mt of coal due to the projected shortfall in indigenous coal production, and imports are arranged upon firm requirements being received from the consumers (power generators).  The question of fuel supply agreement (FSAs) and the pricing mechanism have also been subject to various debates.


The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) has categorically stated that CIL should meet full requirement under FSAs with power utilities. Although coal prices have softened a little bit overseas, in actual practice, when requirements are floated, prices tend to go up and getting competitive bids for freight at short notice are also not practical and certainly not recommended. Overseas suppliers are not in a tap, which can be opened and or closed at will and there is no guarantee that sudden heavy rains would not flood mines leading to an extraordinary situation of short supply from indigenous sources. We need to establish adequate stocks for such emergencies.


Thirdly, the issue of quality of coal supplied to NTPC by CIL has been a matter of dispute, leading to payment delays by the power producer. In the meanwhile, it appears that Coal Ministry has objected to the Power Ministry raising the issue of coal quality (GCV) after NTPC has been consuming coal from the very same source for its requirements for several decades now!


CIL has shown its willingness to have quality control and assessments made at the mine but not after delivery to NTPC.  It is essential to arrive at a mutually agreed quality inspection mechanism while considering the purchase of washed coal, which may be marginally higher in price, suggested by CIL, but at least the quality will be assured, and there would not be any power blackouts!


In the meantime, the Power Ministry and Central Electricity Authority (CEA) have started the processing of applications, received for the 14 coal blocks, located in different states - five in Chhattisgarh, four in Odisha, two in Jharkhand, one each in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal. Although 235 valid applications were received, only 126 are in further process-consideration to allocate these 14 blocks, which include public sector units (PSUs). It seems the Ministry of Power and CEA will take into consideration the state priorities for proposed thermal power projects and evaluate other logistics before making a decision to allocate these 14 blocks.


What is required, in the entire process, is TRANSPARENCY and above-board dealing, so that no fingers are raised, and no delays in allocation. In fact, a novel idea could be to announce the names of selected winners of these 14 blocks, and provide a time frame of 30 clear working days within which, if anyone has any objection, must subject the details, in writing, for a public scrutiny and debate.  The usual muck must stop here, by this process, because scams and scandals break out years after an 'event' is over!  Let's start something new, with a clean slate, can we?


Separately, Coal Ministry plans to auction seven coal blocks for steel, cement and iron units.  These seven blocks have in place reserves of about 14 million tonnes per year and identities of these have not been made public so far.


One of the major hindrances in the movement of coal from pitheads to the consumer's site has been inadequate availability of rakes, delays in transit, loss/ theft in transit and non-availability of dedicated rail corridors for movement.


And the good news is that Larsen & Toubro (L&T) along with SOJITZ Corp of Japan are likely to be awarded the contract to design and construct a 640 kms twin-track stretch between Rewri in Haryana and Palanpur in Gujarat, estimated to cost Rs6,700 crores. This dedicated freight corridor is part of 1,483 Kms Western Corridor proposed between Dadri (near New Delhi) and Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT) in Mumbai. This entire project will be financed by Japan International Cooperative Agency (JICA), and the approval for this award is expected in the next few days. In this case, fortunately, land has been acquired, all other clearances including environment and forests are on hand.


Further details are expected shortly, but the expeditious completion of the corridor will greatly relieve the movement in the Western sector, and indigenous coal production and supplies will increase as a result.


(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)


RBI says no ban on gold selling by banks

The Reserve Bank of India while ruling out a ban on the sale of gold by banks has asked lenders to refrain from aggressively selling the precious metal and related products

D Subbarao, the governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Wednesday ruled out a ban on gold selling by banks.


"We do not want banks to aggressively market gold. We do not want that to become a business. Gold loans are a very small part of the banking business," he told reporters on the sidelines of a financial inclusion conference in Pune.


In a bid to curb demand for gold, on Tuesday the central bank imposed restrictions on banks and non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) for providing loans against gold coins as well as units of gold exchange traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds.


Subbarao said there were many "unscrupulous schemes" which did not come under regulatory purview which lure people with exorbitant rates of interest.


He also noted that the attractiveness of gold is a "consequence of high inflation". Saying the route of buying gold for genuinely saving should be available to the people, Subbarao emphasised that investment in the financial sector is good for the economy.


RTI Judgement Series: Social welfare department kept pension, other disbursement papers carelessly

The SWD at GNCTD found to have kept papers related with disbursement of money to people who apply for pensions and various entitlements carelessly. This is the 102nd in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application

The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an appeal, directed the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Social Welfare Department (SWD) at Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) to ensure that information about people who apply for pensions and various entitlements is displayed on SWD's website.


While giving this judgement on 18 September 2011, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “The Commission is distressed with the fact that the papers relating to disbursements of money appear to be kept very haphazardly. Carelessness of this nature is a sure breeding ground for arbitrariness and corruption.”


Delhi resident Ranjana, on 19 May 2009 sought information regarding people who apply for pensions and various entitlements, from the PIO of SWD at GNCTD. Here is the information she sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act...


i) Daily report regarding two applications filed by the applicant with the department.

ii) Names and posts of the officers who considered the said applications

iii) Dates on which the said applications were considered.

iv) Copies of the reports submitted by the said officers. 

v) Reason for delay in the receipt of the financial aid, if any provided by the department.

vi) Copy of the letter sent to the Applicant by the department regarding any discrepancy, if any in the applications sent by him. 

vii) Copy of any letter sent to the Applicant by the department.

viii) Information regarding the applications submitted by TB patients with the department from 2006 to 15 May 2009 in the following format

     (a)  Serial No.                   (b)    Name of the patient.          (c)   Address of the patient

     (d)  Age of the patient.     (e)    Date of submission of the application

     (f)   Date of inspection.    (g)    Date of issuance of cheque


In his reply, the PIO stated, "The applicant had filed an application with the department for financial aid on 10 July 2006.  However, the department has rejected the requested of financial aid. The required information could not be provided due to lack of staff at the department. The applicant can contact the department for seeking the required information."


Not satisfied with the reply, Ranjana filed her first appeal. However, the First Appellate Authority (FAA) did not pass any orders. She then approached the CIC with her second appeal.


During the hearing, the PIO stated that the records for which the information has been sought are not available since they have been weeded out. The PIO stated that as per a note made by then Welfare Officer KN Mishra "the papers relating to old age, widow and handicapped pensions are kept properly. The papers relating to other schemes are kept elsewhere. Once the audit is over for 2007-08 the papers are kept elsewhere."


Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, said this was an amazing statement. While expressing distress over the fact that the papers relating to disbursements of money were kept very haphazardly, he recommended the secretary of SWD to ensure that information about people who apply for pensions and various entitlements is displayed on the website in fulfilment of its obligation under Section-4 of the RTI Act.


While allowing the appeal, the CIC, said, "The SW Department should put up names and addresses of the people who apply for pensions/ entitlements giving the date of application and mention how it was disposed and on which date. The Commission expects that this should be done from June 2010 onwards. The Commission expects a compliance report of this by 30 July 2010."



Decision No. CIC/SS/A/2009/000173/SG/8053

Appeal No. CIC/SS/A/2009/000173/SG



Appellant                                            : Ranjana,                                                                                                                                                         Delhi-110095


Respondent                                      : Manju Varhney

                                                            Public Information Officer & District Social                                                                                 Welfare Officer (North West)                                                                                                            Social Welfare Department                                                                                                                          Gov. of NCT of Delhi
                                                          GLNS Complex,                                                                    
                                                        Delhi Gate, New Delhi-110006


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