ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Coalgate: A Skewed Debate

The debate on allocating or auctioning of coal blocks skirts the central issue of the effi cacy and desirability of allowing exploitation of natural resources by private players. The current policy which was framed in the mid-1990s goes against the spirit of Article 39(b) of the Constitution which holds that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good.

The current debate involving the allocation of coal blocks to private operators and the presumption of loss in that process glosses over some important aspects that should be central to it. While the opposition endorses the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) conclusion of a certain loss to the exchequer due to allocations done without taking the auction route, the government, making a virtue of its commitment to industrial progress and on the idea of federalism, argues that the ­purpose would have been defeated if it had waited for legislative approval to ­ensure auction.

It is indeed a tragedy that the two sides – as well as those who claim to be on neither of the two – have skirted the central issue, viz, the efficacy and desirability of throwing open exploitation of natural resources by private players. In other words, the danger of palming off natural resour­ces, coal in this case, even if it fetches more money for the state, is lost sight of. Those who argue this way seem oblivious of the fact that auctions too can be rigged by cartels that operate in this sector.

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