New Delhi: State-run Coal India Ltd (CIL) is staring at a longer delay in the appointment of a chairman to oversee the miner after the coal ministry sought the scrapping of a panel of two candidates for the post and proposed widening the search to include individuals outside the company and the government.
The ministry has asked the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB), which handles hiring for state-owned firms, to change the selection committee into a search committee to choose the person to head the world’s largest coal miner amid a shortage of the mineral that has hit fuel supplies to power projects across the country.
The PESB may also tap candidates from outside the company—they may even belong to the private sector—by placing advertisements, said a senior coal ministry official, requesting anonymity.
PESB had recommended the names of D.C. Garg, chairman of Western Coalfields Ltd, a unit of Coal India, and T.K. Lahiry, chairman of Bharat Coking Coal Ltd. Neither of them could be appointed as chairman as the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) didn’t give its clearance to the two candidates.
Another person aware of the development confirmed it.
Mint couldn’t independently ascertain why the coal ministry had suggested scrapping the panel of candidates. The CVC and the coal ministry didn’t give a reason for the delay in clearances. Garg and Lahiry couldn’t be reached for comment. Coal India accounts for 80% of the country’s total coal supply, mining 431 million tonnes (mt) of the raw material annually. The company has been without a formally appointed chairman since February.
A CVC spokesperson was not immediately available for a comment and an emailed query remained unanswered till press time.
“About a month ago, we recommended that the panel set up by the PESB for appointment of Coal India’s chairman be scrapped,” said the coal ministry official cited above. “This was because the CVC failed to clear the name of the two candidates.”
The appointment of board-level executives is a time-consuming process and takes at least a year to be completed.
Mint reported on 13 September that 60 full-time board-level positions and 250 independent director posts are lying unfilled at central public sector units. Of the full-time positions, 20 are for chief executives, while the rest are for posts of directors in fields such as finance, marketing, human resources and operations. While PESB has made its recommendations for 32 of the above posts, they are yet to be approved.
This comes at a time when the country is facing its worst coal shortage. Coal India’s production remained stagnant in 2010-11, but in the current year, when it has been crippled by a workers’ strike and flooding in east India, it has a target of 452 mt. The committed quantity of coal to the power sector is 347 mt in the current fiscal, with the estimate based on a 10-12% increase in coal production. Regulatory and environmental hurdles have kept this growth to 2% and this will limit the supply to 320 mt.
The delay in appointing a chairman also highlights the slow decision making in the government amid allegations of corruption and inefficiency at an individual level in the coal company.
Coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said malpractices were being exposed and a slew of measures were being taken this year to stem theft of coal and he was confident that “this shortfall in production will be met”.
“Coal India will meet the target that it had set for itself. The problem of the last few months will be covered up. We have spoken to all CMDs and trade union leaders. We have resolved all their issues,” Jaiswal said on Thursday.
Appu Esthose Suresh contributed to this story.