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Coal strike enters second day, industry says end it
Wednesday January 7, 2015 9:48 PM, IANS

A five-day strike by lakhs of coal workers against privatisation entered the second day Wednesday, with the industry seeking its end as power plants battled severe shortages.

Even as unions claimed that more workers had joined the protest action in mines operated by Coal India Ltd and its subsidiaries, industry associations called for talks between the government and the workers.

The unions said they were in talks with the central government but there was seemingly no progress.

"We are trying to talk to the central government... Let us see what happens," Basant Kumar Rai, a leader of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), told IANS.

The BMS, affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, is one of the major unions taking part in the strike that has hit hard production, particularly in mines of Coal India.

Another union leader, Jibon Roy, said more workers struck work Wednesday.

"The participation rate has increased. Yesterday (Tuesday) evening we had a word with the coal secretary but there was no breakthrough," Roy from the CITU-affiliated All India Coal Workers Federation told IANS.

The industry urged the government and the unions to urgently settle the contentious issues.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) said the strike would only further dwindle fuel supply at a time several plants faced severe shortages.

Similarly, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Alok B. Shriram asked the unions to call off the strike against the government's move to restructure Coal India.

The restructuring was unlikely to lead to the industry's privatisation, he said.

According to Assocham, the strike would cause a loss of production of over one million tones of coal worth about Rs.200 crore a day.

"The strike would impact industrial growth across India especially in power deficient northern and southern regions, resulting in long unplanned outages," its secretary D.S. Rawat added.

"At present, around 100 MT capacity is lying idle which translates to about Rs.60,000 crore. With no fuel availability, the pressure would only burgeon," he said.

BMS leader Badal Maharana, however, told IANS: "The move to restructure Coal India is against the interest of the workers. It will pave the way for more corruption.

"Our strike will continue until the government meets our demands. The government must also stop auctioning 204 coal blocks," he said.

In Odisha, Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL), which operates 15 open cast and six underground mines, said it produced less than 1,000 tonnes of coal and that too through workers engaged by contractors.

"We produced only 939 tonnes and dispatched 38,824 tonnes from the stocks against 1.25 lakh tonnes of production and dispatch per shift we carry out on normal day," MCL spokesman Dikken Mehra told IANS.

He said MCL was incurring a loss of Rs.10 crore per shift.

With a fifth of the 100 power plants monitored by the Central Electricity Authority having coal stocks of less than three days, the strike may trigger power cuts in parts of the country.

The strike has the backing of five major unions -- BMS, Indian National Trade Union Congress, All India Trade Union Congress, Centre of Indian Trade Unions and Hind Mazdoor Sangh -- which represent almost 90 percent of Coal India's half-a-million workforce.



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