The Lok Sabha on Friday cleared the bill for fresh auction of 204 coal blocks cancelled by the Supreme Court in September, after coal minister Piyush Goyal said it would not lead to privatisation of the sector.
The bill was passed by voice vote in the backdrop of demands from Opposition parties that the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill be referred to a standing committee for closer scrutiny. The bill replaces an Ordinance promulgated in October.
The Rajya Sabha is expected to take up the bill next week.
Allaying concerns that the bill was a ploy to de-nationalise the coal sector via backdoor, Goyal said the new legislation would “in fact strengthen” Coal India Ltd, India’s top coal producer, and increase domestic coal output.
Replying to the debate, Goyal said the auctions would not lead to higher electricity tariffs for consumers and could even bring down costs. “The power sector is a regulated sector. Reverse bidding auction will happen...Prices will fall.”
Coal production has gone up to 7.5% and power generation from coal-based plants has grown 21% after the new government came to power, he said.
The new legislation would also ensure opening of some mines in the public sector, he said, adding new mines that would be auctioned would use better technology to extract coal in a scientific manner.
Initiating the debate earlier, Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia pointed there was no clarity on how many blocks and which ones would be put up for auction. Arguing for sending the bill to the standing committee for a closer scrutiny, he said the bill made a “mockery of the Supreme Court ruling” and contended that a “wonderful opportunity to recast the coal sector” was being wasted.