Led by the All India Coal Workers’ Federation, over half-a-million workers of Coal India Limited (CIL) and Singareni Collieries struck work, for one day, on 24th September. They were opposing the Centre’s decision to allow 100 per cent FDI in coal mining.
The strike was total with complete stop in production, transportation and dispatch of coal from all mines from Assam to Singareni in Telangana. In the week prior to the strike, the Indian National Mineworkers’ Federation (INTUC), Hind Khadan Mazdoor Federation (HMS), Indian Mineworkers’ Federation (AITUC), All India Coal Workers’ Federation (CITU) and All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU)s had placed their demand with the Union Ministry of Mines of withdrawing 100 per cent FDI in coal mining. The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), which was not a participant in the one-day strike, is observing a five-day strike from 23rd-27th on the same issue. Coal India, which produces around 2 million tonnes of coal a day and accounts for nearly 80 per cent of the total output of the dry fuel in the country, is likely to lose around 1.5 million tonne of production due to the stir.
The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) on 18th September notified its decision of 28th August to relax foreign direct investment (FDI) norms in coal mining, which includes sale of coal, coal mining activities and associated processing infrastructure subject to the provisions of Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015 and the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.
Now, foreign companies can invest 100 per cent in all these activities. Till now only Coal India Ltd (CIL) could mine and sell coal in the country. Along with CIL, private and public sector companies with captive mines were allowed to mine and sell 25 per cent of coal in the open market.
The Union Cabinet had approved the National Mineral Policy 2019 in March 2019. The Vision statement of the Policy declares that “Minerals are a valuable natural resource being the vital raw material for the core sectors of the economy. Exploration, extraction and management of minerals have to be guided by national goals and perspectives. Endeavour shall be to promote domestic industry, reduce import dependency, and feed into Make in India initiative.” The announcement of the 100 per cent FDI in coal mining is in stark contrast to this stated vision and once more exposes the double-speak of the Indian ruling class. Noble policy statements are made and actions on the ground are totally contrary to the same!
The coal workers’ opposition to the government’s move to allow 100 per cent FDI in the coal mining sector is just; this move is both anti-worker and anti-national.