On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the auction process of 41 coal blocks for commercial mining through video conference. Commercial coal mining was announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in May as part of the Atmanirbhar Abhiyaan or vision to become self-sufficient in meeting the energy needs of the country.
A two-stage electronic auction process is being adopted for allocation of the coal mines, which is open to domestic as well as global firms under the 100 percent FDI (foreign direct investment) route.
Speaking on the occasion, PM Modi said that the COVID-19 pandemic crisis has taught India the lesson of the need for self-sufficiency and the government hopes to achieve this by reducing dependency on imports and saving foreign currency on imports.
Modi pointed out the irony that India, with the world's fourth-largest coal reserve and being the second largest producer, is also the second-largest coal importer. He added that the sector was excluded from competition and transparency was a big problem. Owing to this, he said, the coal sector lacked investment and its efficiency was also questionable.
He also said that by fully opening the coal and mining sector for increased competition, capital, participation and technology, coal production and the entire coal sector will become self-reliant. He said that these reforms will not only benefit the coal sector but other sectors such as steel, aluminium, fertilizers and cement and increasing the power generation.
Commercial mining will be very helpful to eastern and central India by providing the local population with employment near their homes, the PM's statement said adding that the Government has taken a decision to spend Rs 50,000 crore on creating infrastructure for coal extraction and transportation, which will also create employment opportunities.