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Published on: Dec. 12, 2022, 4:20 p.m.
Singareni potboiler
  • Out of the 82 coal blocks in Telangana, only 40 are in the control of SCCL

By Rakesh Joshi. Executive Editor, Business India

Telangana assembly polls are due next year and the BJP is making no bones about its plan to challenge the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi. An alarmed TRS is now striking back, weaving its campaign, among other things, around attempts to privatise the coal mines in the state. The TRS’s contention is that even though Telangana government has majority stake in Singareni Collieries Co Limited (SCCL), the Centre is pushing for its privatisation.

The tirade has forced Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene in the controversy. While dedicating the Ramagundam Fertilisers plant to the nation in Peddapalli district recently, he said that the Centre had no authority to privatise the Singareni coal mines, as the majority stake was with the Telangana government and the Centre had only 49 per cent equity in it. “We have no intention either to privatise SCCL,” he emphasised.

However, the Telangana government remains unrelenting in its tirade. Koppula Eshwar, state social welfare minister, said that Modi had made the statement only to mislead the 

people of Telangana and coal mine workers, who have been up in arms against the Union coal ministry’s move to auction four coal blocks adjacent to Singareni.

The Singareni coal mines are spread over Adilabad, Karimnagar, Khammam, and Warangal districts along the Godavari river belt. In August 2021, the Centre had decided to auction four coal mines adjacent to Singareni Collieries – Kalyan Khani block-6, Koyagudem block-3, Sathupalli block-6 and Shravanapalli -- as per the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. This set off alarm bells among coal mine TUs.

During the budget session of Parliament this year, Pralhad Joshi, Union coal minister, said that an attempt was made to auction the four coal blocks of SCCL in 2021, but no bids were received from any private parties. Joshi said that the Telangana government and SCCL management had written to the ministry for the outright allocation of coal blocks to Singareni on the grounds that the existing mines of the company were exhausting coal reserves gradually. 

No need for reservation

“However, the coal ministry has decided that there is no need for such reservation of coal blocks to the SCCL, as it will become a precedent for others,” he told Parliament. In July this year, the Centre put up the four coal blocks for auctioning again, but only Koyagudem block in Yellandu in Bhadradri Kothagudem district was bagged by one bidder – MMDS Auro Coal Private Ltd – for mining for a period of 10 years.

“Out of the 82 coal blocks in Telangana, only 40 are in the control of SCCL,” affirm TUs. “Legitimately, the remaining 42 blocks belong to Singareni, which should get them as a part of the expansion plans. But the Centre wants to privatise them through auction. So, the remaining blocks would be gradually handed over to the private parties in the coming years, as per the Central government policy,” they add.

Joshi, meanwhile, has said the decision to auction the other mines has nothing to do with Singareni. “If the SCCL wants any mines, it can also participate in the auction and bid for the same,” he explained.

  • During the budget session of Parliament this year, Pralhad Joshi, Union coal minister, said that an attempt was made to auction the four coal blocks of SCCL in 2021, but no bids were received from any private parties

Barely had the dust settled than TRS raised another charge -- about preferential treatment for Gujarat in coal block allocation. The charge was leveled by K.T. Rama Rao, industries minister and the no.2 person in the state government. He said that a large number of lignite mines were allocated to Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation (GMDC) through the nomination method and questioned the Centre as to why coal mines were not being allocated to SCCL. 

Since the launch of commercial mining on 18 June 2020, all coal and lignite blocks have been given through an auction route. No coal or lignite blocks have been given through the allotment route.

The coal ministry rushed to deny it, saying that “The allegations of giving preferential treatment to one state government in the allocation of coal blocks, are false and not based on facts. There is no special rule or scope of giving special treatment to any one state. Therefore, the question of preferring one state as claimed is baseless and misleading.”

In a statement, the Coal Ministry said that two lignite blocks were allotted to GMDC in 2015, while three coal blocks were allotted to SCCL from 2015 to 2019. Of the three blocks, two have been surrendered by SCCL under the amnesty scheme of the Central government, wherein penalties for the surrender of coal mines by PSUs have been waived off by the Centre. As for the third Naini block allotted to SCCL in 2015, it has still not operationalised by the state government. Clearly, the Centre is in no mood to give TRS a walkover.

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