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SECL locks horns with Chhattisgarh govt over higher production

R Krishna Das  |  Kolkata/ Raipur 

South Eastern Coalfield Limited (SECL), largest coal producing company in the country, has locked horns with the Chhattisgarh government after the latter threatened to issue notices to its officials if the company goes in for higher coal production.

The state government had warned not to increase the production even if the demand of coal was increasing. Of the 93 mines that the SECL have, 53 including 40 under ground, 12 open cast and one mixed mine are located in five districts of Chhattisgarh.

SECL, one of the eight subsidiaries of Coal India Limited (CIL) under the Ministry of Coal, produced 93.79 million tonnes (MT) in financial year 2007-08—the highest production among all subsidiaries of CIL and coal producing in India. The company had set a target of 100 MT in 2008-09.

Sources in the SECL told Business Standard that the company had capacity to produce 3-4 MT more coal in this financial year and it was exploring the possibilities following increasing demand in the country.

The state authorities however swung into action and threatened to serve notices to the SECL officials if the company enhanced coal production in the state. Sources said even police party had reached the SECL’s Bilaspur headquarters to take action against the officials for allegedly violating the environment and pollution norms.

Even as tension flared up between country’s largest coal producer and the state government, Union Minister of State for Coal Santosh Bagrodia had to rush to Raipur for discussion with the Chief Minister, Dr Raman Singh.

The Union Minister was earlier scheduled to address a press conference on Saturday evening in a hotel. But since the matter was related to tussle between the state and the Centre, the Minister preferred to use the political forum to lash out at the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Chhattisgarh government and talked to reporters at the state Congress party headquarters.

“Instead of extending cooperation, the state government is threatening SECL if they go in for higher coal production,” Bagrodia fumed. The state government is not supporting the company in getting forest and environment clearances besides land, and if the confrontation continued, the company will stop giving coal to the state, he added.

CIL need more coal as demand is increasing every year, the minister said, adding that to fulfil this demand the company had to increase production. “Despite all odds, the CIL maintained the supply and not a single unit in the country had to be closed due to shortage of coal,” he added.

Bagrodia pointed out that CIL was not facing such problems in the other coal-deposit states including Jharkhand and Orissa. Chhattisgarh has a coal deposit of 35000 MT—about 18 percent of country’s total coal deposits.

The senior state government officials however refused to comment anything on record. “The chief minister had assured the union minister to look into the matter and help in all possible ways,” one of the officials said.

First Published: Mon, December 29 2008. 00:00 IST