An estimated five lakh employees in the coal industry went on a five-day strike starting today to denounce government moves towards commercial mining of the fuel. This might hit power generation in energy-starved India.
Five major trade unions have shut down production at all coalfields of Coal India Limited (CIL). Coal workers' unions are opposed to the coal block allocation ordinance that they say could lead commercial mining of the fuel. This comes just a day after new managing director Sutirtha Bhattacharya took office. A CIL spokesperson said he has been holding meetings with agitating unions.
According to Shyamal Dutta of Coal India Workers Federation, the industry employs around five lakh people. Coal fuels 60 percent of the country's power production. Currently state-miner Coal India has near monopoly over coal production, accounting for nearly 82 percent of domestic output. Previous strikes have crippled power plants and CIL might lose Rs. 150 crore each day work is halted.
Central trade unions have urged workers of CIL and its subsidiaries and the Singareni Collieries Co. Ltd. (SCCL) to launch the strike from first shift Jan 6 to third shift of Jan 10 "in most militant manner". All five major unions of CIL - Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), and Hind Mazdoor Sangh - boycotted a meeting called Saturday by Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal.
CIL's management had appealed to the unions not to go on strike, saying that power production across the country could be hit if coal is not transported on time to various power plants across the country.
After the Supreme Court cancelled 204 coal block allocations made between 1993 and 2010, the government in October promulgated the Coal Ordinance (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014, for their re-allocation and e-auction. The tender process for the same was started last week.
(With inputs from agencies)