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on india’s coal shortage

Blocks were to be given to companies that needed captive coal-mines- to feed their steel, cement, power and sponge iron plants. A lot of companies showed plants on paper – as something they were planning to set up – and they were allocated mines… The companies that got the mines are not extracting coal. They are instead looking for buyers, who are typically companies with plants but without mines. My estimate is that 80% of companies that won these blocks had no plants that needed coal.

BJP Lok Sabha MP Hansraj Ahir’s complaint about coal block allocation has led the Central Vigilance Commission to order the Central Bureau of Investigation to hold a preliminary enquiry into allotments between 2006 and 2009. Talking to me, Ahir said that private companies have misused the coal blocks allotted to them — some have sold the blocks, others have amassed more blocks than they need. Excerpts from an interview.

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