The Supreme Court judgement cancelling the illegal allocation of 214 coal blocks, estimated to have an investment of around `2.85 lakh crore, provides the Narendra Modi government an opportunity to start on a clean slate in handling precious natural resources in a transparent and fair manner. The previous government had distributed these resources, whether 2G spectrum or coal and other minerals, in a way that favoured and nurtured crony capitalism. That the government is serious about cleaning up the allocation system is evident in the fact that it did not try to save five of the six coal blocks that were deemed ready for production, though it was inclined to earlier.
The SC in its wisdom has given the companies who have lost their captive mines a six-month breather, after which their mines would be taken over by Coal India Ltd. However, this could possibly be avoided if these companies manage to get mines through the auction process suggested by the court.
It is hoped that the government wastes no time in expediting the auction process so that there is not much disruption of coal production. A coal shortage has already caused havoc in the power and other sectors.
The SC’s action in cancelling all but four of the 214 coal blocks may appear harsh but it was necessary to send a strong message that such arbitrariness with scarce natural resources, which belong to the people of India, would not be tolerated. Businessmen with clout always got away but the law has finally caught up.