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Trade unions opposed to enabling clause in the coal block allocation ordinance that may allow extraction of fuel and its sale by private companies
India may face long hours of power cuts from Monday as trade unions of monopoly miner Coal IndiaBSE -0.40 % have decided to press ahead with a five-day strike to demand the withdrawal of Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill and protest against the enabling clause in the coal block allocation ordinance that may allow coal extraction and its sale by private companies.
The five central unions backing the strike represent almost 90 per cent of Coal India's 3.5 lakh workforce.These unions include the BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, or BMS. Stoppage of a day's work is estimated to lead to a production loss of about 1.3 MT of coal, costing about Rs 200 crore.
About 30 plants across India have depleted stocks that will last barely three days. The unions, which were earlier demanding reversal of the government's decision to allow commercial sale of coal under an enabling clause in the ordinance, boycotted a meeting scheduled with Union coal minister Piyush Goyal on Saturday .
"Enough arrogance has been displayed by the government. We will go on the five-day strike as scheduled. It is time for coal workers to `do or die'," declared SQ Zama, secretary general of Indian National Mineworkers Federation.
A nationwide strike by coal workers will result in further dwindling of fuel supply at a time when several plants are facing severe shortages. This could lead to a decline in power generation and some plants may even have to shut down a few of their units due to lack of coal, according to industry executives.
"We requested the coal minister Piyush Goyal to meet us before such policy decisions are taken. However, the government passed an ordinance without discussing it with us. It also took the effort of introducing the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill without meeting us. Now that we have threatened to go on a strike, he wants to meet us," said Rajendra Prasad Singh, general secretary of the Congress-affiliated INTUC.
Singh added, though, that all five unions had decided against meeting the minister and go ahead with the strike.
The unions also want to halt denationalisation of the industry, divestment and transfer of existing private mine workers to new owners after e-auction.
"Demonstration of this unity is unprecedented and it should be regarded as strong opposition against the government's move for introducing cheap labour," said Jibon Roy, general secretary of All India Coal Workers Federation and gene.
"The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill will replace the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act of 1973 that did not allow any private commercial mining. We are dead against it. "
While INTUC, BMS, Hind Mazdoor Sabha and All India Trade Union Congress are going ahead with the strike, the CPI (M)-backed Centre for Indian Trade Unions has decided to support it and also declared a oneday strike on January 13.
"If need be, we may extend this to an indefinite strike," said a senior INTUC leader.
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