A parliamentary panel has pulled up the coal ministry for cancelling allocations to power companies without trying to address the issues that led to delays in developing coal blocks. The ministry had been acting like a big brother, trying to intimidate power companies for reasons beyond their control, the panel noted.
“Mere de-allocation of a block is not a solution, owing to the possibility of new allottees finding it difficult to develop these,” the parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy, headed by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, said in its report on the availability of coal and gas for the power sector.
The government has allocated 206 captive coal blocks, with combined reserves of about 40 billion tonnes to about 100 public and private sector companies since 1991. However, only 26 of these have commenced production, owing to delayed environmental clearances, land acquisition delays and law and order issues.
In a correction drive started two years earlier, the coal ministry had, last year, cancelled about a dozen blocks and issued showcause notices to others. This year, in the second round of the exercise, the ministry is issuing notices threatening cancelling allotments to 58 companies. In its previous report, the panel had noted blocks were allotted without analysing their use to companies. It had, therefore, asked the ministry to act as a facilitator to remove the bottlenecks in the development and award of blocks in a transparent manner.
The panel also pulled up the power ministry for ambiguity in its approach to deal with coal imports to address coal shortages. While the modalities for import are decided by power companies like NTPC, these hold Coal India responsible for imports, the panel noted.