October 06, 2019

Massive Countrywide Strike by Coal Workers

ON September 24, 2019, the coal mining under Coal India Limited(CIL) came to a grinding halt owing to  aggressive strike action by more than five lakh coal mining workers including contract workers against the destructive move of the BJP government at the centre to allow 100 per cent FDI in commercial mining of coal through automatic route. On August 28, 2019, the government made such disastrous announcement, and the next three days witnessed almost spontaneous demonstrations and burning of effigy of the government by thousands of coal workers in almost all the 650 plus coal mines in the country under CIL and Singareni Collieries Limited at the initiative of All India Coal Workers Federation (CITU), thereby creating ground for further united action by almost all the federations/unions of coal workers.

Allowing 100 percent FDI in coal-mining for all commercial purposes along with 100 percent FDI in contract manufacturing-all through automatic route, was seen as a severe blow to national coal miner-the Coal India which has been creditably performing by consistently improving its production performance despite many hurdles created by the government itself.  Post coal nationalisation, coal mining by private entities was allowed only for meeting captive requirement of any industry during the late nineties through amendment of the Coal Nationalisation Act. Subsequently through further amendment of the act during the last BJP rule, coal mining was opened to private entities for commercial mining also, but FDI was allowed only for captive mining. Now that barrier has also been removed allowing the foreign companies to capture control over country’s coal resources to a substantial extent for commercial mining including export.

100 percent FDI in commercial mining in coal along with 100 per cent foreign ownership in contract manufacturing in Indian soil together will deprive public sector CIL of the level playing field in respect of allocation of new coal bearing areas as well as in cost of production. 100 percent foreign control of a substantial section of coal reserves with a right to export will also severely hamper the protection of national priorities in meeting increasing domestic requirement of coal both for household consumption and industrial requirement particularly in power, steel, fertilizers and other sectors. And under the present BJP regime playing a partnership role of imperialist powers and always obliging international finance capital, it is but natural that CIL will be discriminated in respect of allocation of new coal bearing areas for mining vis-à-vis the private and foreign players.

The BJP government final target is to privatise the CIL and totally reversing the nationalisation of coal industry to serve the interest of foreign companies with Indian private corporate as junior partners. That is why they have been ignoring the genuine demands of the unions and the workers for making the Coal India a unitary monolithic company merging all the subsidiary companies into it. Now, after all these disastrous exercises of amending the Coal Nationalisation Act in permitting the private players to go for commercial mining of coal followed by permitting 100 per cent FDI in commercial mining of coal, the natural course for the present BJP government will be (a) to kill the infrastructure of finding new coal bearing areas in the country under government control through CMPDIL in collaboration with Geological Survey of India and leave it under private control, (b) to separate the profitable subsidiary companies, one by one from CIL for the purpose of privatising, rather foreignising them. And the new coal bearing areas will be diverted to foreign and private entities through auction route instead of handing over them to CIL for further exploration and mining.

Accordingly all the fighting federations in the coal sector affiliated to CITU, AITUC, INTUC, HMS and AICCTU along with others had jointly decided from a joint convention held at Ranchi to go in for immediate strike in the Coal industry on September 24, 2019 to start with and they are determined to fight back to the last. The demands are:

  • Scrap the decision of 100 per cent FDI in commercial mining of coal
  • CIL must be restructured in to a unitary monolithic company by merging all the subsidiary companies viz., ECL, BCCL, CCL, CMPDI, MCL, NCL and WCL.
  • Contract system in coal mining of all forms including ‘mining developers operators’ must be banned and all the workers engaged in mining must be regularised in the roll of CIL.

strike call received a massive response throughout the country from the coal workers including the contract workers in an unprecendented manner. The sweep and coverage of the strike in all the coal companies under CIL, viz., ECL, BCCL, CCL, WCL, NCL, MCL, SECL and CMPDIL and also in Singareni Collieries Limited spreading over more than 650 coal mines throughout the country in 8/9 states, viz., Telangana, Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha etc., has been almost total defeating the conspiracy of the government to sabotage the strike through their stooges and agents.

With almost 100 per cent strike by the coal workers, a new heightened phase and the struggle will continue against the grave anti-national conspiracy of the BJP government to hand over the control of natural resources of the country to foreign hands. Again the coal workers are going to repeat the strike action on January 8, 2020 at the call of United Platform of Central Trade Unions and Federations. The CITU congratulated the coal workers for such heroic strike action.