Condemn the loot of people’s wealth by capitalists and the central government!
The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), about the allocation of coal blocks to selected private companies for mining between 2004 and 2009, has brought out yet another glaring instance of the loot of the natural resources of the people by the monopoly bourgeoisie through the agency of the central Cabinet and the ministries it oversees. In that five-year period, 150 extremely valuable coal blocks were given out virtually free of cost to a number of companies. The CAG Report has pointed out that in the process, a colossal sum of 10,67,303 crore rupees (US$ 500 billion) was lost to the public treasury.
The companies thus favoured by the Central Government and its Coal Ministry included some of the biggest monopoly groups such as the Aditya Birla Group, Essar Group, Adani Group, Arcelor Mittal and Jindal. They also included a number of companies directly linked with ministers and other leading politicians, such as Naveen Jindal (Congress MP), S Jagathrakshakan (Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting), Subodh Kant Sahay (Tourism Minister), Ajay Sancheti (BJP Rajya Sabha MP), Vijay Darda and Rajendra Darda (Congress MP and Maharashtra education minister respectively), and Premchand Gupta (RJD leader and former minister of state for corporate affairs).
Coal is one of India’s most valuable natural resources. India is at present the third largest coal producing and coal consuming country in the world. Coal is the main source of energy, accounting for more than half of India’s requirements. Until the launching of the privatisation and liberalisation program in the early 1990s, coal production was in the hands of two state-owned companies, Coal India Ltd (CIL) and Singareni Collieries Company Ltd, with only certain iron and steel companies allowed to operate captive coal mines. From 1992, the process of opening up coal blocks to private companies, in the name of stepping up power generation and generally speeding up “growth” began.
Even companies that had no proven experience or technical capacity were allocated coal blocks, and they had to pay nothing more than the cost of the government-produced geological report on their allocated block. By 2011, 194 coal blocks, with aggregate geological reserves of 44.44 billion metric tons, were handed over in this manner. The reserves in many of these blocks are expected to last for about 100 years. This just shows the extent of profits that these companies and their owners could expect to make, not just now but for many decades.
The debates in Parliament and on numerous TV channels are focused on the issue of the method of allocation of the coal blocks, with the “first come first served” method being contrasted to the auction method. It is also being debated whether Congress Party or BJP leaders have gained more from the corrupt deals. However, the main issue is neither the choice of method nor the rivalry between the big bourgeois parties. The main issue is that a critical national asset such as coal must not be sold to private profiteers.
Mineral deposits and other natural resources are national assets that belong to the people. Coal deposits belong to the peoples of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Odisha, Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and others where coal is found. The peoples of these states were robbed of their wealth even prior to privatisation of coal mining. They were robbed through the unjust arrangement of the Central Government enjoying the right to set the royalty rate on “major minerals”, even though the revenue from such royalties belong to the State governments concerned. The royalty rate for coal was deliberately set very low, for the sake of supplying cheap energy to the big capitalists.
Privatisation is a program to escalate the scale of the loot of national wealth to unprecedented proportions, by private corporations acquiring direct access to the mineral deposits, free to exploit it at any pace they like, or to sell it to someone else for a handsome profit, as several of the recent allottees have actually done.
We, the people, must not permit the Central or State governments to sell coal mining blocks to whoever they like. That is the question of principle involved. The government and the big capitalist media want to divert public attention from this question of fundamental principle. They want people to only debate which method of sell-out is preferable.
The justification given for the need to allocate coal blocks to private profiteers as rapidly as possible was that the demand for coal is rising rapidly in our country, and that Coal India and Singareni cannot keep pace with the rising demand. However, after aggressive implementation of this privatisation policy, supply of coal has not increased very much. To cap it all, following the CAG Report, Coal India is now being asked to expand its output as fast as possible!
The facts have thus revealed that the real aim of the decision to privatise coal mining was not to meet the rising demand for coal in our country, as the Prime Minister and others claimed. The real aim was to enable a privileged minority of capitalists to reap windfall profits. The people of the country have been looted on a massive scale, their rights have been trampled in the mud, all for the sake of enriching a privileged few.
Halt and reverse the privatisation of natural resources! This is the immediate demand of the working class and all the nations and peoples whose resources are being looted.
An essential condition for a lasting solution lies in the recognition of the nations, nationalities and peoples who inhabit this country, and their respective rights to control and benefit from the natural resources that belong to them.