There have been recent news of CBI questioning the family of TMC chief Mamata Banarjee for involvement in illegal mining of coal. I am sure the rot is much deeper and if right investigations are done, many skeletons will tumble.
For last several decades, mining sector has been a hot bed of corruption. The Gandhis had designed the mining laws to facilitate corruption and mafia. Of all the mining sectors, the murkiest sector is Coal. And that’s not without a reason.
What gave birth to the Coal Mafia?
In 1970s, Indiraji nationalized the coal mines. That means no private company could “legally” own, mine or sell coal. Only PSUs like Coal India Limited could do so. The PSUs never mined the right amount of coal India needed. Due to this there was chronic shortage in Coal. The big companies could import coal, but please note, since they could not sell coal, the need of coal by smaller users(small industries, retail users etc.) were catered by illegal miners.
Though the P.V. Narsimha Rao govt allowed companies to own coal mines, they could not sell coal in open market. They could only use the mined coal for their own purposes. For e.g. a steel plant could mine coal for its own consumption, but could not sell the extra coal in the market. This may have reduced the illegal mining of coal, but did not eliminate it fully.
West Bengal has huge reserves of Coal. Due to the shortage and restrictions on Sale of Coal, the mafias found it a golden opportunity to make money. Hence, they started to fill the shortage of Coal in the country by illegal mining and earned a lot of money. It is said, that a ruling party in Bengal was funded by the money from illegal coal. Also, the mafias operated what is called “rat hole mines” where the death rates were high. To avoid scrutiny, labor was imported from Bangladesh. If an Indian dies, his relatives will come searching for him, but if a Bangladeshi dies no one will come searching for him. That may have been one of the reasons why the communists welcomed a lot of illegal Bangladeshis during their rule.
The communists became weak, but the illegal coal mining continued. And, In the mean time Modiji came to power.
Modiji wanted to strike at the root of the problem. As recently as in 2020, the Modi passed the “The Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020“. Currently, companies acquiring coal mines through auctions can use the coal produced only for specified end-uses such as power generation and steel production. The Bill removed this restriction on the use of coal mined by such companies. Companies are now allowed to carry on coal mining operation for own consumption, sale or for any other purposes, as may be specified by the central government.
The Govt. recently, few months back, auctioned several coal mines where the bidders/purchaser companies could mine and sell coal in open market.
Hence, these steps will help eliminate the Coal mafias operating from Bengal. The Coal mafias cannot compete with the modern technologies and the professional companies will destroy the mafia completely. Also, though India has huge coal reserves, it imports coal. This change will help India save valuable foreign reserves as well.
This will also clean up Indian politics. I think, the political heir of Mamata Banerjee being questioned for illegal coal mining is not just a mere coincidence.
Hence, I am not surprised when Mamata curses Modiji. I don’t know if CBI will go the root of the illegal deeds, or use this link for keeping Mamata in control for Assembly polls.
DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.