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The successful allottee of the coal block should be made to pay the cost of coal mined to the Government of India in lieu or in addition to the loyalty, as coal is a natural resource belonging to the people and not the allottee on a “free of cost” basis
The verdict is out, at least for the first four out-of-turn coal block allottees. They have lost it forever! Unless, of course, someone in this lot tries to use legal course of action for reinstatement!
There are many others in the line of fire; some are ducking behind the cumbersome formalities and clearances that are considered as “stumbling blocks”, but which are now their saviours, as the axe has not fallen. Perhaps, they a little respite, a time to breathe!
Chances are that the IMG (Inter-Ministerial Group) may seek another 15 days extension to complete its hearings before it can pronounce a final judgment. After all, many of the allottees got the blocks years ago and two weeks is too short a period of time to make any judgment for the whole lot out there.
Outsiders do not know the nature of the investigations that the IMG must have made, and yet it did a thorough job before coming to any conclusion for the first four who have lost their blocks.
Anyway, this raises several questions. Looking at things positively, what should the IMG do when it comes to those allottees, who, by virtue of their actual compliance of various stipulations, can be deemed to have shown or performed their part of the obligations, but are actually at the mercy of State and MOEF ministry of environment and forest) officials who are actually the stumbling blocks?
Such a question leads us to ask if and whether both related State and MOEF officials were also subject to similar grilling that the individual allottees went through? Were they present on a face-to-face basis to answer charges and counter claims? In the absence of one or the other, the final outcome may not be as fair as one would expect.
In any case, those of the de-allocated apparently did not have any credible defence but to lose their opportunity of a life time. As for the successful ones, that would soon emerge, what are the expected IMG recommendations, considering the mined coal from these blocks as “national wealth”?
It would be fair to think that they would have to comply with the following requirements, in general:
a) a time-frame within which mining operations should start
b) proof of financial and technical ability to do so
c) that the coal block allotment is not a free gift to the allottee as originally envisaged
d) that an expert committee, drawn from the industry (coal miners in actual profitable operations), technical experts to assess the thermal calorific value of coal mined at specific sites in question
e) audited figures of the unit cost of coal of the same quality for the previous 2-3 years (or more) and the matching internal price from reliable and ascertainable sources to be obtained, which will determine the cost of coal at pithead
f) an audited cost of coal production for each such mine
g) based on the above data and any other similar information that the government or IMG may decide, the successful allottee of the block will have to PAY the cost of coal mined to the Government of India in lieu or in addition to the loyalty, as may be determined by them.
In other words, coal obtained from these mines would not be FREE, as the same is a natural resource belonging to the people and not the allottee on a “free of cost” basis.
Such a move would have far-reaching ramifications on the national wealth and its usage, and prevent unscrupulous methods of acquisition at the cost of the exchequer.
(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. He can be contacted at [email protected].)