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Key positions in Coal India lying vacant

Key board-level positions in coal mining monolith Coal India Ltd (CIL) and its subsidiaries are vacant at a crucial time when the country is struggling to bridge fuel deficit to meet its energy needs. Coal India Ltd, an umbrella company of seven coal mining firms, is operating without a chairman while three of its subsidiaries do not have full-time heads.

The top post at CIL fell vacant in May after S Narsing Rao resigned to take up a key role in the newly formed state Telengana. Rao, a 1986 batch Andhra Pradesh cadre IAS officer who hails from the Telangana region, was appointed chief of the world's largest coal producer in April 2012 for five years. Rao has not yet been relieved of his charge but he has taken leave on personal grounds and has moved to Hyderabad.

The coal ministry has asked the Appointment's Committee of Cabinet to give charge of CIL to additional secretary A K Dubey for three months that can be later extended. Industry insiders say the company needs a permanent chairman for long-term vision, a process that normally takes a minimum six months.

Sources in the power and coal ministries said the government may invite qualified private persons to manage Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), to start with CIL and NHPC Ltd. "Having a full time chairman is important for a company, especially as important as Coal India that is catering to the coal needs of the entire country. A temporary chairman will only pass time and will be averse to taking decisions for the long-term benefit of the company," a senior coal ministry official said.

Association of Power Producers director general Ashok Khurana said, "An important organisation like Coal India should not remain without a head for long."Besides the challenge to quickly increase coal supplies, Coal India is faced with issues such as lack of environmental clearances, less offtake by consuming companies, lack of rail rakes and other coal transportation modes and criticism for poor quality supplies. CIL units, Northern Coalfields Ltd (NCL) and South Eastern Coalfields Ltd (SECL), are also headless.

NCL director personnel Shantilal Sahu has been given the additional charge of the company's chairperson andCIl director technical N Kumar is holding the forte for SECL. D C Garg, CMD of Western Coalfields passed away on Tuesday after brief illness.

Minister urged to ease clearance norms

The coal ministry has asked the environment ministry to ease clearances for expansion of large coal mines to help state-run Coal India Ltd (CIL) increase output and curtail forex outgo. Power and coal minister Piyush Goyal has written to environment minister Prakash Javadekar to give a one-time clearance to existing coal mines with annual capacity above eight million tonnes for enhancing production by up to 6 million tonnes, asenior ministry official said.

The proposed special dispensation to coal mines will help the country in bridging gap between supply and demand for coal, the official said. The minister had on Friday assured power companies of consistent fuel supply and asked CIL to increase output. The environment ministry had in January 2014 issued guidelines allowing one-time clearance for expansion of coal mining projects of capacity under eight million tonnes per annum. The coal minister has asked the environment minister to extend the guidelines to larger mines.

As per the proposal, coal projects with capacity in the range of 8 million tonnes to 16 million tonnes per annum should be allowed to raise production by 4 million tonnes and mines with projects of yearly capacity more than 16 million tonnes by another 6 million tonnes.The coal ministry cited that allowing eight CIL projects to increase capacityl would raise coal output by at least 32 million tonnes in the next two years, saving a foreign exchange outgo of about $1.8 billion.

Source-On Request