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Coal Ordinance gets Prezís nod; trade unions cry foul

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New Delhi (Oct 21, 2014): The Ordinance to auction coal blocks through an electronic platform got the President's approval today, paving the way for a "transparent" allocation process for mines to the private sector, even as trade unions and Left parties opposed the move.

The long-awaited "reforms" in the sector, a departure from the existing practice of allocation by a screening committee mechanism, got the go-ahead from President Pranab Mukherjee, who promulgated the Ordinance cleared by the Union Cabinet last evening.

The Ordinance was warranted in the backdrop of the Supreme Court's order quashing 214 coal blocks allocated to various companies since 1993 on the ground that they were done in an illegal manner by an "ad-hoc and casual" approach "without application of mind".

Industry bodies hailed government's move and termed it as a step in the right direction.

"This is an important decision and highlights the Government's seriousness to reform the coal sector. ... Through this move, the government has arrested concerns pertaining to diminishing coal supplies," FICCI President Sidharth Birla said in a statement.

"The air of uncertainty has been resolved and clear roadmap has been put forward. CII believes that quick decision-making by the government sends the right signals," CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee said.

With uncertainties almost over, metal stocks rallied in stock markets, led by JSPL, Hindalco and Tata Steel, pushing the benchmark BSE Sensex up 146 points at close.

Naveen Jindal-led JSPL, which is among the worst hit in the cancellation of the coal blocks, said it would participate in the auction process. JSW Steel also would "definitely" take part, its Joint Managing Director Seshagiri Rao said.

Left parties and several trade unions opposed the e- auctioning of coal blocks and the enabling provision in the Ordinance that allows commercial mining by private firms and sought its reversal, warning of a nationwide strike if the Centre went ahead with the changes.