about 12 days ago
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This is so bizarre; we today have a crisis at hand, despite the Govt saying that its not a crisis.  We laughed at China, saying that a country which is a factory to the world was going through a major power crisis. And by the looks of it, India is also sailing on the same boat. A coal shortage in a country where there is Coal India, the largest coal producing company in the world, is not just funny anymore.

Headlines of ‘blackouts’, ‘outages’, ‘power cuts’ are screaming at us from all forms of media. Meme’s and jokes are also making their rounds on the social media.

While states are sending out messages that there are right at the bottom of the coal barrel, the Govt says its not so. The Ministry of Coal said that "ample coal is available in the country to meet the demand" and "any fear of disruption in power supply is entirely misplaced".

Worse still, Tata Power and GAIL, sent out messages, rightly so, warning its customers about potential shortage and then Union Minister of Coal Pralhad Joshi, went on to say, “I've warned Tata Power CEO of action if they send baseless SMSs to customers that can create panic. Messages by GAIL & Tata Power qualify as acts of irresponsible behaviour.” But then, if this panic button wasn’t pressed, would the Govt have woken up at all?

There is no crisis, yet the Govt has given reasons for the current situation of depleted coal stocks.

1) An unprecedented increase in demand for electricity.

2) Heavy rains in coal mine areas during September 2021.

3) An increase in prices of imported coal to an unprecedented high level.

4) Non-building of adequate coal stocks before the onset of Monsoon

Apart from the reason of heavy rains, weren’t all the rest avoidable? It was written right there on the wall that as Covid ebbs, the rebound will be sharp and increase in demand will jump to even pre-Covid levels – domestically as well as globally. Yet, Coal India, the ‘efficient’ company that it is, refused to have the foresight and stay prepared to meet the future demand.

CIL has a monopoly and yet, it is in this state. It thus makes every perception we have of a PSU seem so true – inflexible, unwieldy, adamant labour unions, resettlement and rehabilitation, antiquated technology, where crony capitalism and politics rules business sense. Yes, it provides employment to over 3 lakh people but does that make sense for a for-profit organization when the cost of these employees outstrips the advantages.

The only good news here – Coal India is aware that it needs to perform and it is at least taking some steps to improve. But that cannot remain merely on appear; it needs to be implemented and that too fast.

CIL is a jewel in the crown of PSUs. And its sparkle is lost and clouded. Unless it is polished back to life, like other PSUs in the past, it too will die a death or be on a death bed, waiting for resurrection like Air India, which thankfully found the perfect buyer!

There is no easy way out but a way needs to be worked out soon – it employees is the biggest burden, govt needs to concentrate on either reducing it or making them more efficient, where they help produce more than what they collectively take away!

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