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Terming the poor state of Coal India Ltd's (CIL) production efficiency as a `legacy' passed on by previous governments, Coal Minister Piyush Goyal said on Thursday his government will procure foreign technology to upgrade the public sector major's operations.
"The Prime Minister raised the issue of coal technology with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot," he said in reply to a question in the Lok Sabha by Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia on what the Centre is doing to enhance CIL's efficiency.
CIL was nationalised in 1973, Goyal said, but no attention was paid to technology imports and safety standards. The PSU is unable to meet the country's existing requirement of over 200 million tonnes of coal, he added.
Taking a dig at the previous UPA Government and the coal allocation scam, Goyal said that in the past five years, environmental clearances had put hurdles for CIL, but the focus was more on `allocation' of blocks.
The Minister further said the Centre is in the process of fast-tracking rail links in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. "Once the rail links are ready, 200 million tonne of coal can be evacuated," he added.
`Not crisis, but opportunity'
Dismissing Scindia's suggestion that coal block cancellations had created a `crisis' for the Centre, Goyal said: "It is an opportunity, not a crisis for the Government... it will help clean up the sector."
When asked why the Centre brought in an ordinance in a hurry, along with a provision to allow foreign players in coal blocks, Goyal said the government wants to ensure that there is no coal shortage.
On foreign firms investing in coal blocks, he said FDI norms will be adhered to.
Goyal said the e-auction of coal blocks cancelled by the Supreme Court will be completed by March 31 next year and, if the process is not completed, a "designated authority" mentioned in the ordinance will take over the mines.
"As regards the financial implications of the judgement on the coal sector, the total amount of additional levy payable by the allocatees of producing coal blocks for coal produced or likely to be produced up to March 31, 2015 is estimated at Rs. 10,494.36 crore," he said.
Goyal said there is no decision yet on pricing, but the regulated sectors will get priority so that power tariffs can come down.
"Non-regulated sectors, such as steel, will have to pay the market price," he added.
Taking a dig at the UPA Government, Goyal said that in the past five years, environmental clearances had put hurdles for CIL, but the focus was more on `allocation' of blocks.
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