New Delhi: The government began the working week of the New Year on a beleaguered note, facing two major strikes - first by Coal India workers for five days from Tuesday, and second by all-India bank unions pressing for wage hikes Wednesday.
In an unprecedented show of unity, coal workers and unions across the country plan to go on a five-day strike to protest the coal block allocation ordinance that provides for the possibility of commercial mining of the fuel.
"The central trade unions call upon the coal workers of CIL (Coal India Ltd)/subsidiaries and SCCL (Singareni Collieries Company Ltd.) to launch five days' total strike in coal industry from first shift of Jan 6 to third shift of Jan 10 in most militant manner. It is time for coal workers to do or die," the Indian National Mineworkers' Federation said.
State miner Coal India Ltd. has near-monopoly over production in the country, supplying nearly 82 percent of domestic output.
Describing the proposed strike as "unprecedented" in the history of the coal industry, the unions urged the workers to join the action in a militant manner.
All five major trade unions of CIL - Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Confederation of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and the Hind Mazdoor Sangh boycotted a meeting called for Saturday by Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal.
"Government of India is bent upon to dilute and gradually denationalise CIL and SCCL," INTUC said in a statement.
"This will probably be the biggest ever strike in the industry. Power sector may be hit by the prolonged strike," said AITUC general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta.
After the Supreme Court cancelled 204 block allocations made between 1993 and 2010, the government in October promulgated the Coal Ordinance (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014, for the blocks' re-allocation and e-auction, the tender process for which was set in motion last week.
Meanwhile, turning down suggestions for restructuring Coal India, the Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu-headed advisory group on integrated development of power, coal and renewable energy has instead recommended empowerment of the company's subsidiaries.
"Several options regarding the restructuring of Coal India were discussed. It was agreed that no major restructuring was required, at least in the short term," said the group's report.
"The subsidiaries may be given adequate delegation of power, capital expenditure and operational flexibility, along with commensurate accountability, so that their dependence on CIL for decision making does not hamper fulfilment of targets set out for them," it added.