Protesting against the government’s decision to allow commercial coal mining, Coal India trade unions started their three-day strike beginning Thursday, a move that may hit around four million tonnes of production.
The unions on Thursday went on the strike from the first shift which begins at 0600 HRS, Nathulal Pandey, president of HMS-affiliated Hind Khadan Mazdoor Federation said.
On an average Coal India produces 1.3 million tonnes (MT) of coal every day, so it is estimated that the production loss due to the three-days strike would be around 4 MT, Pandey said.
The move comes at a time when the government has set an ambitious one billion tonnes of coal output for Coal India (CIL) which accounts for over 80 per cent of domestic coal output.
Pandey said, in the Jhanjra area of Eastern Coalfields, five persons — one CITU member, one INTUC and three HMS — who were on strike have been arrested.
Further, workers employed in the BCCL, a Coal India arm, have not gone to work and as a result emergency services such has hospitals in the mines have been paralysed, Pandey said.
Besides, the general manager of the Sohagpur area of SECL, a Coal India arm, has called outsiders to work in the mine which is an “extraordinary situation” and this has never happened to Coal India.
On Wednesday, talks between Coal India trade unions and the government over the issue of commercial coal mining failed. A virtual meeting was held between Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi and representatives of trade unions on Wednesday.
“During the meeting, the Minister informed the unions that commercial mining is policy decision of Central Government. Minister said that this is the only way to increase the production of coal. The representatives of trade union reiterated their stand opposing commercial mining,” he said.
In the end, the minister did not accept the demand of unions to withdraw the decision of commercial mining. “Therefore, the unions have no other remedy rather to go for 3 days strike from July 2-4,” he said.
In 1973, by way of nationalisation, the government tried to stop exploitation of coal workers and also to regulate the wages and service condition.
“If commercial mining is started by private companies, they will certainly exploit the workers by paying less wages and the workers have to work in sub standard working conditions,” Pandey said.
Joshi on Tuesday had made an appeal to trade unions not to go on strike and said there were no plans to either divest the PSU or hive off Coal India arm CMPDIL.
Trade unions have given a call for nationwide strike against the government’s move to open the coal sector to private players and separate the state-run firm’s exploration, planning and design arm CMPDIL from the company, among others.
Coal India accounts for over 80 per cent of domestic coal output.