NAGPUR: BJP MP from Chandrapur Hansraj Ahir has demanded that the government should cancel all coal block allocations to private companies and hand them over to public sector undertaking Coal India Limited (CIL) so that mining can be started at the earliest to meet the growing coal needs of the country.

Ahir, who has been at the forefront in exposing the coal block allocation scam in the Parliament, said the Union government had allotted 73 coal blocks to 151 private companies during 2006-2009. “The CAG, CBI, CVC and the Supreme Court found several irregularities in the allocation process. Till date, the government has cancelled deals for 30 blocks. Several private players have been given notice and the apex court is monitoring the probe. As a result, companies have not been able to start mining and most coal reserves are lying untapped,” he said.

Ahir said though India has emerged as the third largest coal producer in the world, imports are increasing every year owing to heavy domestic demand. “Last year, we imported 85 million tonnes (MT) coal, this year 135MT and next year the projected figure is 185MT. Even if the government gives 20 coal blocks to CIL, the public sector giant can ramp up production to 600 MT. This would help meet the growing needs of industry and upcoming power plants,” he added.

The BJP MP pointed out that CIL, which celebrated its foundation day on Friday, has been deprived of new reserves for last several years due to government policies. “In 2007, CIL had sought allocation of 138 coal blocks for exploration. But the UPA government preferred private players. As a result, coal production of CIL and its subsidiaries dropped. Western Coalfields Ltd (WCL), which once employed 82,000 people, cut down the staff to 52,000 to keep itself profitable,” he said.