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Procedures constrain acquisition of overseas assets: coal secretary

BS Reporter  |  Kolkata 

On the back drop of repeated failure by the Indian public sector to acquire overseas assets, the new coal secretary Alok Petri, has batted for a removal of procedural bottleneck in buying coal blocks abroad.

“We want like Coal India (CIL) or SAIL to acquire assets abroad, using the huge funds that they have. But they have several procedural hurdles and needs many one-to-one negotiations to do such a thing. By the time they come to a conclusion, somebody else will go ahead with the acquisition. On the other hand, the private sector has the advantage of over-running this process. Hence, it is upon the government to try and see that this risk factor is reduced,” Petri said, speaking on the sidelines of an energy summit, here, on Saturday.

This comes after repeated efforts by Indian PSUs for acquisition of blocks abroad. The Kolkata-based CIL’s plans to acquire assets abroad is still stuck with the finance ministry. The firm was in talks with Indonesia’s Golden Energy Mines, the United States miners Massey Energy and Peabody Energy for assets in Indonesia, US and Australia. “Once the approval comes, if the offers are not their, then we might look for some other assets,” said N C Jha, chairman and managing director of CIL.

Petri also hinted that the estimates by the Planning Commission that the country will need nearly 800 million tonnes of coal during the 12th Five Year Plan period is an over estimate. “It says that the country will need 250 MT by the end of 12th Five Year Plan, I think this estimate needs serious introspection,” he said.

Not to bow to worker demands
Meanwhile, five coal workers unions —INTUC, CITU, AITUC, HMS and BMS — are planning to go for a strike across the country on October 10. When asked about this, Jha termed it as “illegal and unfortunate”.

“We have not yet recieved a notice on this. This is despite our promise that the firm will pay a higher bonus of Rs 17,000, compared to Rs 15,000 paid to each worker last year. They had initially asked for a bonus of Rs 50,000, which now they want to be Rs 23,000. We are not going to accept this as it is not viable for the company,” he said.

According to him, a one-day strike will cost Rs 120 crore for the company, while it will lose the production of 1 MT of coal.

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First Published: Mon, September 26 2011. 00:25 IST