KOLKATA: For Mr Narsing Rao it was just another day, but with a difference. He left home in the wee hours on Tuesday to take up his new assignment as Chairman of Coal India Ltd.
By the end of the day, Mr Rao was ready with his agenda to bring the world’s largest coal producer back on to the growth path.
“My first priority is to get the environmental clearances,” he told newspersons in the evening.
His concerns come at a time when the company is facing flak for stagnation in production. At least 70 projects are hanging fire, awaiting environmental clearances from either State or Central authorities.
It takes two-and-a-half years for projects to get regulatory clearances on environmental protection.
The long gestation is primarily due to “procedural issues”.
He has no hesitation in stating that he would exercise his lobbying skills to set the ball rolling faster for CIL, be it at the Centre or at the seven coal-bearing States.
“We will be seeking the indulgence of the governments, if required,” Mr Rao said.
Next on his agenda is to ensure adequate evacuation logistics so that the monopoly can achieve the steep coal-offtake targets set for 2012-13, as per the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Centre.
In an ambitious move, CIL is now planning to despatch nearly 10 million tonnes more coal — over and above a steep 7.5 per cent targeted production growth to 469 mt — in the current fiscal.
The aim is to increase availability in the system by diluting a monstrous 72 mt pit-head stock that kept growing over the years and decades without much reference to the flat production graph. A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that CIL will require approximately 25 mt of coal in this fiscal against the additional 50 supply pacts with the power companies. If the company sticks to its off-take plan, there should be a reasonable availability of coal in the system, including that for the buyers through e-auctions, during the year.
But, can Mr Rao override the logistics bottlenecks, especially in the railway system?
For the moment, he has no ready answer to the problems, except a strong hint that the company may consider a suitable policy to invite private users, primarily private power plants, to evacuate millions of tonnes of inventory lying in remotely located mine-heads not connected by railways.
He had introduced such soft-deals in Singareni Collieries Company Ltd (SCCL), in the past, to promote users to carry coal on an as-is-where-is basis from remote pit-heads.