Focus areas for new CMD at Coal India

Though India produces more than 520 mt of coal a year, underground mining is said to contribute only 36-40 million tonnes.  This is an area that needs to be explored further


Press reports confirm that a section of Coal India Limited (CIL) and Singareni Collieries workers may go on a strike, with effect from 7 January 2015. This is in spite of government entreaties to the trade union leaders to avert the agitation and to discuss the issues on hand. Five trade unions, including INTUC and AITUC have given the strike call to press their demands, which includes a rollback of the denationalisation process of the coal sector and stopping the divestment and restructuring of Coal India. To safeguard the interest of power generators, Coal India has stepped up its supplies, just in case the strike goes on schedule.


It is at this important juncture, Suthirth Bhattacharya, an IAS officer who was CMD of Singareni Collieries Co Ltd, has just taken over as the new Chairman and Managing Director of Coal India Ltd, as of Monday, 5th January. He has a heavy work schedule on hand, since CIL was a headless organisation since S Narasing Rao left to be in Telengana.


His first priority is to pacify the striking leaders and persuade them to call off the agitation, and sit for discussions.


It has already been reported in the press that Suthirth Bhattacharya will do all he can to ramp up coal production and to increase supplies to all customers of Coal India. Apart from persuading the strikers to call of the agitation, his priorities include three major railway lines in Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh so as to unlock huge coal reserves in these states and make them available to consumers.


Bhattacharya had taken over as CMD of Singareni Collieries in 2012, prior to which he was Principal Secretary (Energy) for the Government of Andhra Pradesh (undivided).


During his tenure, Singareni produced 10.54 million tonnes (MT) of coal from underground mining and 39.92 MT from open cast mines. During this period, work on 1200 MW thermal power project at Jaipur in Adilabad district of Telengana progressed well and is expected to be commissioned by September this year. The Adiriyala coal mining project also got off to a reasonable start of 5,000 tonnes per day and is expected to reach 3.2 MT when in full production.


His experience in underground mining would be of immense use in handling 300 small coal mines that employ around 3,00,000 miners.


Globally, underground mining plays a vital role in coal supplies and accounts for about 20% of the total production. Though India produces more than 520 MT a year, underground mining is said to contribute only 36-40 MT. This is an area that needs to be further investigated by Suthirth Bhattacharya, considering large reserves of coal in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and MP. These have a forest cover and therefore needs to be extracted with great care, without destroying the forests. Coal seams are found generally about 300 metres from the surface.


Instead of engaging in the easier technique of open cast mines, with a little effort and state of the art mining equipment, it should be possible to extract coal from underground mines without disturbing the forest cover.


It is therefore gratifying to note that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has now entrusted the task of preparing a National Forest Policy (NFP) to the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM, Bhopal), to bring out a framework of policy by end of March 2015. The earlier policy reports were brought out in 1952 and 1988, and it is hoped that the new version would take into account the changing circumstances in the country.


It may be recalled that, prior to the formation of the new government, a lot of issues of clearances acted as stumbling blocks and the MoEF was at the receiving end of endless complaints by all concerned. PM Modi had promised that his government would do all it can to ease green clearance norms so as to avoid the diversion of land for non-forestry purposes, such a mining, and at the same time make project developments possible.


India has 22% forest cover. It is believed that mining activity can still take place effectively without disturbing it and underground mining, such as in the worldwide coal industry, would be a good start, as this can be done without destroying forests.


Suthirth Bhattacharya may be able to depend on his Singareni experience and focus in this area, besides expeditiously handling railway lines from point of production to areas of need. It would be worthwhile for him to device ways and means to set up a coal express that is able to move coal when railway tracks are not heavily used. Closer cooperation with railway ministry would be one other sector that he needs to concentrate on, so that coal movement is not derailed.


(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also 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.)

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Coal miners begin 5-day strike today

Unions including BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh have joined together to go on strike for 5 days, affecting coal supply in many parts of India


7 lakh coal industry workers today joined together to go on a nationwide strike. In the biggest union action since 1977, this strike is being supported by all the major trade unions in the country, including the BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) and Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) among others.
The strike has been called with a demand to roll back the process of denationalising the coal sector and to protest the proposed re-structuring and disinvestment of Coal India Limited.
India has had many coal supply shortages in the recent past, but the power sector has managed to scrape through. This strike will affect coal production of upto 1.5 million tonnes per day and is expected to hit power producers and cause blackouts.
Newly appointed Coal India Limited CMD Sutirtha Bhattacharya was quoted by PTI News as saying, "We are hopeful the situation would be resolved in an amicable manner. The precise impact of the strike would be known later and it would be premature to predict (the impact) at this juncture."
Power minister Piyush Goel is expected to meet union representatives to address their demands tomorrow. This meeting gains significance because as per reports, coal supply to the North and East of India are already stretched and being cash-strapped, these utilities would not be able to buy power, possibly causing wide-scale blackouts.


IRB shares close lower by 8.43% on reports of CBI raid

The CBI has conducted raids on various offices of IRB Infrastructure Developers, in Pune and Mumbai


The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted raids on various offices of IRB Infrastructure Developers, in connection with land grab cases filed against IRB and its Chairman Virendra Mhaiskar, by the murdered Right To Information (RTI) activist Satish Shetty. While the share saw an intra-day fall of a little over 10%, it closed the day down by 8.43%.


As Moneylife has written before , Shetty's case was suspiciously closed after over 4 years of investigations by the CBI. Shetty was murdered on 13 February 2010.


After the closure report in the case was filed by the CBI, it is now re-investigating the land grab accusations against IRB and its head. CNBC TV18 reported that the Bombay HC had allowed the CBI to re-investigate the land grab cases in the interest of justice.


Shetty was said to have been murdered for his refusal to take back the cases he had filed. The CBI's report had also said that IRB had offered Shetty Rs2 crore to take back the cases he had filed.


CBI's report in the murder investigation had said the following, “Investigations by CBI revealed that the deceased had filed a number of complaints against Smt Ashiwini Kshirsagar, the then Sub-Registrar at Lonavala, for illegally registering Government land on the basis of false documents. The deceased had filed a complaint on 16 September 2009 with the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Pune Rural, against Smt Kshirsagar and others, for registering government land on the basis of bogus documents. Therefore, on 15 October 2009, on the fresh complaint of the deceased CR no152/2009 a case u/s420, 467, 468, 469, 471 and 34 of IPC was registered at Lonavala City Police Station against Virendra Mhaiskar, director of Aryan Infrastructure Investment Pvt Ltd and 12 others regarding illegal purchase of government land in Pimpaloli village and Ozarde village, Maval taluka, Dist. Pune on the basis of fake and forged documents in connivance with Ashwini Kshirsagar, the then sub-registrar, Lonavala, who was also cited as an accused in the said FIR.”


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