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New Delhi, June 18, 2020
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today declared that India would win the battle against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and emerge as a self-reliant country but pointed out that this would not be possible without a strong mining and minerals sector, which is an important pillar of the economy.
"India is not going to sit and wail over the crisis. Howsoever big the crisis might be, India is determined to turn it into an opportunity. This coronavirus crisis has given India lessons in being Atmanirbhar, that is, self-reliant!" he said while launching the auction process of 41 coal blocks for commercial mining through video conferencing from here.
The auction was part of the series of announcements made by the Government under the AatmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. The Coal Ministry in association with FICCI launched the process for auction of these coal mines. A two-stage electronic auction process is being adopted for allocation of the coal mines.
Modi said that, after the latest reforms, coal production and the entire coal sector would become self-dependent. "Now market has been opened for coal; so, any sector can buy as per their requirements," he said.
He said these reforms would not only benefit the coal sector but other sectors as well.
"When we increase coal production, then positive impact is also felt on production and processing in Steel, Aluminium, Fertilizers and Cement sectors with an increase in power generation. Fortunately, in India, reserves of coal, iron, bauxite and other minerals are located very close to each other. So, reforms brought in minerals sector have got strength from coal mining reforms.
"Beginning of auction today for commercial coal mining is a win-win situation for stakeholders. The industries, you, your businesses, investments will get new resources and markets. State governments will get more revenue and a huge population of the country will get employment. It means, there will be a positive impact on every sector," he said.
The Prime Minister said self-reliance meant that India will reduce its dependence on imports. "Atmanirbhar Bharat means India will save foreign exchange, worth lakhs of crores of rupees spent on imports. Atmanirbhar Bharat means India won’t need to import, for which, it will constantly develop resources domestically. Atmanirbhar means we become biggest exporters of the commodities that we now import.
"To achieve this, we must take every sector, every product and every service into consideration and work holistically, to make India self-reliant in that particular area. Today’s event is a manifestation and a robust step in the direction of the same thinking," he said.
He said the auction launched today was a major step towards making India self-reliant in the energy sector.
"This marks the beginning of lakhs of employment opportunities for our youth," he remarked.
Modi said that within a month of the announcement of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, all reforms in the sectors of agriculture, MSME and now the coal and mining sectors had been implemented on the ground.
"This shows India’s seriousness and commitment to turn this crisis into an opportunity. Not only are we launching the auction of commercial coal mining today, but also freeing the coal sector from decades of lockdown," he said.
"What has been the effect of lockdown of the coal sector; you know it better than me. Give it a thought. The nation with the fourth largest coal reserves in the world; the second largest producer in the world; that nation is not a coal exporter, but the second largest coal importer in the world! The question is, when we are one of the largest producers in the world, why can’t we be the largest exporter?" he said.
"This has been our situation for decades. The country’s coal sector was entangled in the mesh of captive and non-captive. It was kept outside the competition; transparency was a major issue. Forget about fair process of auction, everybody is aware of the big scams involving coal mines allocation. For this reason, coal sector lacked investment and its efficiency was also questionable. Coal would be extracted in one state and sent to another state, hundreds of kilometers away and, the originating state would wait for coal. It was quite messy.
"Many steps were taken after 2014 to change this scenario. We implemented coal linkage which no one could think about. Such steps provided impetus to coal sector. Recently, we brought many reforms which were being thought about for decades. Now, India has taken a big decision to fully open coal and mining sectors for competition, capital, participation and technology. Care has been taken to ensure that the new players in private mining sector do not face problem of finance," he said.
"While implementing coal reforms, it has been ensured that India’s commitment to protect environment doesn’t get weakened. Latest technology can be introduced to make gas from coal. And environment will be protected with steps like coal gasification. Coal gas will be used in transport and cooking while Urea and steel will promote manufacturing industries. We have set a target to gasify around 100-million-ton coal by the year 2030. I am told that four projects have been identified for this purpose and around 20 thousand crore rupees will be invested in this process," he said.
Modi said the coal sector reforms would help make eastern and central India, including the tribal belt, into pillars of development.
"Areas in our country having coal, minerals have not been able to reach desired level of progress and prosperity. This is also the part of the country having a big number of Aspirational Districts. People of these districts are aspiring for development, but have lagged behind in terms of development.
"You can imagine that 16 Aspirational districts in the country have a huge stock of coal; but people of these areas have not got adequate benefit of this. Our friends from these places have to migrate to far-flung cities for employment.
"The steps taken towards commercial mining will be very helpful to a big population of eastern and central India in providing them employment near their homes and reducing many such problems.
"Auction of these coal blocks today will itself generate lakhs of jobs in this sector. Not only this, but infrastructure needed for coal extraction to transportation will also create employment opportunities. Recently, the Government has taken a decision to spend 50 thousand crore rupees on creating such an infrastructure," he said.
Modi said the reforms and investment in the coal sector would play a big role in making the lives of people, especially the poor and the tribals, easy.
He said the extra revenue generated through coal production would be used for public welfare schemes there. States will also continue to get help from the District Mineral Fund. "A major chunk of this fund is being utilized in development of essential facilities in the areas surrounding coal mines. We are following the objective of making people of mineral rich areas wealthy. The steps being taken today will greatly help this objective," he said.
The Prime Minister also said the auction was taking place at a time when economic activities were fast returning to normal after the easing of the lockdown restrictions, imposed on March 25 to contain the spread of COVID-19.
"Consumption and demand are fast attaining the pre-COVID-19 levels. There cannot be a better time for a new beginning.
"Be it demand in power consumption or demand for petroleum products; the last week of May and the first week of June have seen a rapid rise. Almost 200% jump has been witnessed in E-way bills as compared to April. Toll collection in the month of June has already reached 70% of the February levels. Railway freight traffic has also witnessed a jump of 26% in the month of May as compared to April. Total digital retail transaction is witnessing a rise in both volume as well as value.
"The rural economy has also started looking up. This year the crop area of Kharif is 13% higher than last year. Production and procurement of wheat has also increased this year. As compared to last year 11% more wheat has been procured till now. This means more money has gone into the pockets of farmers. All these indicators tell us that the Indian economy is ready to bounce back and march forward.
"India has come out of bigger crises and will come out of this one, too. If we Indians are millions of consumers, then we are also millions of producers. Success and growth of India is certain; we can become Atmanirbhar!
"Remember, few weeks ago we used to import most of our demand for N-95 masks, Corona testing kits, PPE, and Ventilators. Now India is fulfilling its demand through ‘Make in India’. And very soon we will become an important exporter of medical products. You must keep up your faith and morale, we can do it. We can definitely become Atmanirbhar Bharat!" he said.
"I want to once again assure my friends from industry present here today that I am with you. If you take two steps for the welfare of the country; I am willing to walk four steps with you. Come, let us not let go of this opportunity," he added.