While our power plants are slowly cutting down production, imported coal lies at these ports simply because Railways are unable to deliver the rakes. It is time a serious investigation is made as to why Railways are unable to supply the required number of rakes on a daily basis?
According to the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), 60 out of 103 power plants have less than a weeks' supply of coal and unless Coal India expeditiously moves coal from its stocks, lying in pitheads and elsewhere, to these points, we are most likely to face power outages in the week ahead. In fact, India's largest thermal power producer, NTPC, has already shut one of its five units, due to coal shortage, and the situation is precarious, to say the least.
The severe cyclone Hudhud has left in its wake a trail of destruction and damage, and a few deaths in both Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. Fortunately, the impact of this cyclone Hudhud has been reduced, thanks to the advance preparation by the government, which put all its facilities to evacuate the public from the anticipated path of this severe cyclone.
Flooding has taken place in the affected area; lot of agricultural damage to standing crop, destruction of property, damage to power lines etc have been reported. What we still do not know is whether the flooding would be affecting the coal mine areas in Odisha.
In the recent months, Krishnapatnam Port has been in the news, because it has been specially geared up to receive a huge surge in coal imports, and this port has been anticipating a 50% growth this year. To what extent this Hudhud is going to affect their plans remains to be seen, once full details of the cyclone impact are assessed. The Paradip port has also been getting additional equipment to deal with increase in the coal imports but, here again, Hudhud impact is not known, yet.
What is however shocking is that Paradip has about 2-3 million tonnes of coal at the port and press reports indicate that they have as many as 400 pending indents lying with the Railways. In reality, they are able to get 9 or 10 rakes a day as against the demand of 20 to 25 rakes. This means that while our power plants are slowly cutting down production, imported coal lies at these ports simply because Railways are unable to deliver the rakes.
It is time a serious investigation is made as to why Railways are unable to supply the required number of rakes on a daily basis? Minister Sadananda needs to investigate this lapse and take the inefficient officials to task.
Press reports indicate that there have been some top level appointments in the subsidiaries of Coal India Ltd. A close study would reveal that, in fact, no new qualified personnel have taken over the realms of these coal fields. Simply, inter-company changes have taken place and that too, after the vacancies arose, and which were left unfilled for months, not really, years, before these were effected.
In 2010, according to the media, the Chairman and Managing Director of South Eastern Coalfields (SECL) was arrested by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), for accepting graft, and MP Dixit was removed. Until now, for more than four years, this Coalfield did NOT have any Chairman, and work carried on. About a year ago, it would seem that Om Prakash, Director of Technical Operation in Western Coalfields was selected to take over this position as CMD of Southern Eastern Coalfields (SECL), and only NOW he has been given this responsibility!
It would be worthwhile studying as to why Om Prakash has not been upgraded in Western Coalfields itself, which, in all fairness, he would have better knowledge and grip of the situation? However, when MP Dixit was arrested, it was N Kumar, Director Technical at the Coal India was deputed as CMD. Here again, all the knowledge that N Kumar gained in handling the affairs of SECL would be lost, he would be reverting back to the parent organization! What has prevented the Government in confirming this position in favour of N Kumar? This would be another interesting study.
In the case of Northern Coalfields, it appears that the CMD of this unit was accused of malpractice, though full details have not been made public. TK Nag, Director Technical of Ranchi based Central Coalfields has now been named as the new CMD of Northern Coalfields! Here again, with his knowledge and experience in Central Coalfields, would he not be suitable candidate to succeed the current CMD, if his term is over?
In the case of RR Mishra, Director of Personnel in the Central Coalfields Ltd would now become CMD of Western Coalfields, whose chairman, D C Garg passed away recently (in June this year), who appears to be a non-technical person.
It may be recalled that when all these were happening, Coal India's former CMD S Narasing Rao was talking about acquiring oversea assets and simply decided and quit to rejoin the administrative service in Telengana. At least, in the future, the concerned ministry should ensure that no one should be allowed to leave their top positions until the major pending issues are settled to the satisfaction of the Government.
Finally, the Public Enterprise Selection Board (PESB) has issued advertisements to attract CEOs, CMDs, President or Directors of private sector companies with a turnover of over Rs5,000 crore for presumably top management positions in Government companies. According to the press, the total remuneration package offered is about Rs75 lakh per annum which is low and not attractive enough to qualified candidates to even apply. Private enterprise offers great facilities, including bonus, profit sharing and shares so that the very best is tempted to offer their services.
Coal India should be denationalised; these independent coalfield companies, all seven of them, must be made free to operate with the top management have a stake in each company. There ought to be incentives to perform and deliver the goods. Let the government permit this to happen in the case of Coal India, as an experiment, and one can see the miracle of high production in less than one year's time.
Government must be bold and innovative to make this move. Otherwise, we will continue to be facing such crisis one after another.
(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.)