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India: Press statement Support the three-day strike by coal mine workers oppose handing over coal mining to private sector

The Indian Federation of Trade Unions(IFTU) extends support to the three day strike by the coal mine workers starting 2nd July in protest against the Centres decision to open 41 coal blocks for commercial mining by private players.

Taking advantage of the Pandemic, the Prime Minister on 18th June,2020 launched the course to auction 41 coal blocks in five states, Jharkand, Chattisgarh, Odissa ,Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra the first three states with 9 blocks each for commercial mining. Apart from these, 11 blocks in the Singareni Collieries are also under the axe. It is being told that this decision is in line with the vision of “atmanirbhar”, self-reliance. The country is supposed to become self reliant in the energy sector by opening up the coal sector to private players. The PM wants us to believe that self reliance can be realized only by privatization that would also mean the entry of foreign players or FDI. The Centre had earlier taken the decision to permit 100% FDI in the coal sector and the present decision to open up coal sector to private players cannot be seen in isolation from this policy framework.The process of de-nationalising the coal sector had begun in the nineties when many works which were directly under the various subsidiaries of the CIL or under the SCCL were handed over to private agencies or were outsourced. For instance, most of the work of removing the over-burden(OB) in the open-cast mines are managed by private agencies. In the last decade and a half many underground mines, which are labour intensive have been shut down and open-cast mines have increased. In the 18 open cast mines in the SCCL, all the over-burden works are done by private companies. This process entailed the employment of contract labour instead of regular workers. The Coal Mines Special Provisions Act,2015 is a part of the scheme to denationalize the coal industry allowing private companies to enter this key sector. The present decision of handing over 41 coal blocks to private players would also result in displacement of tribal population from their forest dwellings and in deforestation. The National Committee of IFTU demands, 1. the roll back of the decision to auction 41 coal blocks. 2. Annul the Special Provisions Act 3. Stop outsourcing and regularize contract workers. Aparna Pradeep