Opposition slams Coal ministry functioning

New Delhi: The functioning of coal ministry today came under severe criticism with main opposition BJP alleging that the four years of "black gold rush period" from 2006 was in no way less than the wrongdoings of the 2G spectrum allocation.

Participating in a discussion on the working of the coal ministry, Prakash Javadekar (BJP) said that during the period, the government seemed to be in a "20:20" mood as was evident with the rapid allocation of coal mines compared to the pace earlier.

"While 2-3 mines used to be allocated between 1993-2005, it was like a 20:20 match after 2006. In the four years since then, it had allocated 73 coal mines to 143 companies having a cumulative reserve of 17 billion tonnes…it is worth Rs 51 lakh crore," he said wondering why the government did not go for e-auctioning of the mines. "I would like to term this period as black gold rush period…If you remember 2009 was the election year and that year they had given 15 mines within a span of three months. Prime Minister was the coal minister then."

"2G jaisa har cheez is mey hai (It has got all ingredients as in the 2G scam)," Javadekar said, adding that mines were allocated to individuals who were not running a factory or had no plans to set up factory, contrary to the existing practice. The BJP member also hinted at possible wrongdoings on the part of the government in regard to Pakri Barwadih mine in Chhattisgarh.

Initiating the discussion, Rama Chandra Khuntia (Cong) expressed "serious concern" over pilferage of coal, illegal mining and serious corruption allegations in supply of coal to small investors. He said allowing private firms to operate coal blocks has not helped in any way to improve production capacity or operation of coal mines. Khuntia also demanded deployment of CISF for guarding the coal fields to check illegal mining and pilferage of coal. Veer Singh (BSP) urged that the vacancies for SC and ST in Coal India should be filled with immediate effect.

Shyamal Chakraborty (CPI-M) said the contract labourers at CIL should be given salary on par with the permanent ones. Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (AITC) demanded that West Bengal should be given both royalty and cess on coal in view of the current economic condition of the state. P Mohaptra (RJD) said the rate of royalty on coal should be increased to 50 per cent. He demanded that land should be returned to the displaced people once mining activity is done in a particular area.