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MAR 16 2015

Coal mines auction: who will hold the Rs. 2-lakh cr?

  • Economic Times, ET Bureau / Hyderabad
  • Created: Mon 16th MAR 2015

The Centre is in a fix over the Rs. 2-lakh crore mopped up from the auction of 33 coal mines.

 Even as the Coal Mines Bill is being discussed by a Rajya Sabha Select Committee, it is not clear who will be the custodian of the Rs. 2-lakh crore or how it will be disbursed to the host States.

 During deliberations of the Select Committee on the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015, Opposition Parliamentarians repeatedly asked the Centre to spell out how it plans to distribute the money to the States.

 With just four days left for the Budget session to end (March 20), the Select Committee has been working on a priority basis since March 13 to submit its report by March 18.

 According to official sources, the Rules for the Ordinance have a provision dealing with transfer of money to the beneficiaries, but there is no clarity on who will be the custodian. Members of the Select Committee want the Government to take the views of all the States involved before suggesting a framework for allotment of the money to the host States. In its present form, the Bill does not sufficiently address the concerns raised by several States. The Government merely claims that eastern States will benefit from the new Bill.

 “This (the Bill) will help the coal-bearing States of eastern India which are generally less developed. The primary beneficiaries of this bonanza are the States of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and West Bengal,” the Government has been maintaining.

 “But where are the provisions? We have demanded that the Bill should make it clear that the revenue generated from the auctions will go to States and the process should also be clear in the Bill,” said an Opposition MP.

 Constrained for time, the BJP does not want to delay the passage of the Bill. A ruling party member of the Select Committee said they are hopeful that the Bill will be passed in the Rajya Sabha. “There are some valid suggestions from the Opposition members. But Parliament can address all such concerns,” he said. The Committee is meeting almost daily. One Opposition member said if the Government clarifies their concerns, they will not obstruct the passage of the Bill during the Budget session. “We need clarity on States’ revenues and on the Bill’s capability to check corruption,” he said.

 An Ordinance enabled the Government to re-allocate 204 coal mines cancelled by the Supreme Court. The Centre came up with the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015, to replace the Ordinance, as required under Article 123 of the Constitution. After the approval by the Lok Sabha, the Bill moved to the Rajya Sabha, where it was referred to the Select Committee.

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