Coal sector, in the last one year, has seen major changes. Anil Swarup, Coal Secretary, has his priorities set for the future of the sector. Speaking to M Rajendran of TNIE, he discusses some of the major challenges of coal quality and its availability in the country. Excerpts:
Recently, Union Minister of State (IC) for Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal, mentioned about `40,000 crore savings. Can you explain how it will be achieved and by when?
Our objective is that all coal that can be made available in India, ie the quantity of coal available in the country, the same should not be imported. During the previous financial year 2015-16, there was a reduction in import of 30 million tonnes of coal, resulting in `28,000 crore savings. So, when the Minister says he expects to save `40,000 crore, I think, we should be able to achieve that this fiscal itself.
What does this saving of `40,000 crore translate into?
It is a foreign exchange saving. But coal will be sourced and when it is done domestically, it will lead to employment generation, value generation and other spill over effects to economic growth.
How have states responded?
Whatever success we have, it would not have happened without the help of state governments. There are three factors that determine coal availability in the country — acquisition of land, forest and environmental clearance and evacuation by the Railways. The first two are in the domain of state governments.
How has Coal India performed in this process?
Major ground work was done by CIL. It is to their credit that wonderful results are available. In 2015-16, more than 5,000-6,000 hectares of land was taken over by Coal India, with the help of states, which is more than twice over 2013-14.
How was the response from private sector?
Anyone who can get cheaper coal will go for it. Now there is cheaper coal available in India and my hope is that those who were importing cheaper coal will procure it domestically, as they did last year.
What about quality of coal?
We are attempting to address this. Our earlier target was to increase the quantity, that has been achieved, now the focus is on quality. So from January 1, 2016 , all coal that is moving out of mines is crushed below 100 mm, that improves the quality and the feedback is very good. We have introduced third party sampling by Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research (CIMFR) in Dhanbad. Four samples are taken, one each is kept by the seller and the buyer, third sample is sent for testing and the fourth one is a referral sample. Earlier it was done by Coal India and the recipient and there were constant fights. But a lot more is to be done and we are conscious of this and are working towards achieving it.
How have public sector firms like NTPC responded?
Very positive. In fact, they have announced that they are not going to import any coal and will source from CIL. It is an important decision, because, NTPC earlier had issues and rightly so, on the quality of coal being supplied by CIL. Now, they are working together.