Amid coal shortage in the country, it has now come to light that 10 states owe over Rs 19,900 crore in outstanding dues to Coal India Limited.
These states reportedly include West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
According to government sources, despite the coal ministry's reminders in January, April and May this year, the state governments did not boost their coal stocks.
Government sources claimed that Rajasthan, which owes Coal India Limited Rs 278.47 crore, had in the last quarter of FY 2020-2021 sought to restrict coal supply citing handling and storage issues. This, after the Centre shot off letters to the state government to regulate build sufficient coal stock. The letter, in which Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is reportedly marked, also urges the state government to increase the supply from the two coal blocks allotted to them.
As for Maharashtra, the state power generation company (Mahagenco) owes Coal India Rs 2619.29 crore. According to government sources, letters had been sent to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray seeking information on the availability of coal before importing and maintaining sufficient stock. Another state which owes Coal India over a thousand crore rupees is West Bengal. The state has an outstanding bill of Rs 1958.6 crore.
According to official data, 99.33 million tonnes of coal has been supplied this year compared to about 75 million last year.
The government claims that the sudden shortage of coal was triggered by multiple reasons.
Union Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi on Tuesday said that the prices shot up to Rs 190 per ton from Rs 60 per ton in the international market due to heavy rains which had triggered a shortage.
The high cost of imported coal forced power plants relying on imported coal to either had to shut down operations for 15-20 days or reduced their output. This, the minister said, had a cascading effect and put the domestic coal supply under pressure.
The minister said that on Monday, 1.94 million tonnes of coal was supplied to the states, the highest ever supply of domestic coal.
According to media reports, Coal India has been told to ramp up coal supply to power producers to about 1.6 million tonnes per day and to scale it up further to 1.7 million tonnes per day post-October 20.