21 June, 2021

Tunnel Vision, Darkly

The irregularity of allocation and the inability to exploit the mines don't seem like chance outcomes or mere procedural delays.

Tunnel Vision, Darkly

The reversal in policy terms of the Coal Nationalisation Act of 1973 and the allocation of coal to private players is at the heart of the current impasse in Parliament. It will, however, not be analysed at that level if the issue is turned into a poll plank as the country’s two main national parties take their slugfest to the campaign trail. In Parliament—as indeed in the ‘official’ press conferences that purport to make up for the absence of parliamentary deliberation—the squabbling has revolved around two things: the CAG’s observation that coal deposits were distributed in an irregular, arbitrary manner, and the Rs 1.85 lakh crore estimated value of these ‘undue benefits’. I argue for shifting the terms of this debate. Even at the risk of tilting the argument somewhat in favour of the government’s defence, I concede that the policy of allocation rather than bidding has some basis in reason—as also in law. Regardless of this, there can be no denying that its opaque and wilful implementation, lack of superintendence, and...

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