The Union ministry of coal has proposed that the mine bearing states will have the authority to choose which legal purview they will follow to award land to private coal miners under the commercial coal auction. This comes after some mine-bearing states protested that the Centre is breaching their rights to approve land acquisition for private coal miners.
Coal ministry has proposed that states can choose between the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition & Development) Act, 1957 or the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RFCTLAAR) Act, 2013.
In order to ease the coal mining process for the upcoming commercial coal auction, the Centre was mulling to allow land acquisition under the Coal Bearing Areas Act, 1957. This would entail the Centre acquiring land and then giving it on lease to the private miners, this paper reported recently.
“The Centre is thinking of an initiative wherein land acquisition would be allowed under the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, 1957 and the land could then be given to private miners on lease,” said M Nagarau, joint secretary, ministry of coal and nominated authority for commercial coal auction during an industry meeting.
However, states such as Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and several local activist groups in the state started protesting against any amendment to the CBA Act. Several activists stated the amendment would take away the authority of the states on land and the revenue garnered from it.
Sources said similar concerns were raised by some non-BJP ruled mine-bearing states during stakeholders’ discussion with the Centre, earlier this month. To address this, the ministry of coal is planning to leave the choice to the states. “It will be up to the states. If they want to follow the amended CBA Act and ease the land acquisition and thereby private investment in their states or want to continue with existing provisions of RFCTLAAR Act,” said an executive privy to the discussion.
The CBA Act, 1957 provides for the acquisition of land containing or likely to contain coal deposits and for matters connected therewith. Under the provisions of this Act, the land is acquired for government companies only for coal mining and activities strictly incidental to mining purposes.
Additionally, the Centre will also “de-centralise” the process of land acquisition for private coal miners. “We have proposed to the mine bearing states that land officers in the states will oversee the process of land acquisition for private coal miners. The Centre will have no role and states will have full authority,” said the official.
The approval for land acquisition by Central public sector utilities including national miner Coal India would remain the purview of the Centre, said an official.
The Centre had started the coal mine auction — for commercial mining and sale by private companies — in June. Bidding terms were liberalised to attract foreign players, non-mining entities and large miners. In May, it amended the Coal Mines Special Provisions Act, 2015, to simplify the auction process and attract significant investor interest.
The online auction of coal blocks for commercial mining and sale for private companies will commence in October and final winners declared in November.