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Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Friday said that in order to tide over the current load shedding crisis in the state, the government has decided to import coal to some extent from outside the country for power generation.

The scale of the purchases and the decision to go back on a plan to cut coal imports underscore the severity of the India's fuel crisis. Utilities' coal inventories are at the lowest pre-summer levels in at least nine years and electricity demand is seen rising at the fastest pace in at least 38 years.

Maharashtra plans to import 8 million tonnes for "blending purposes," while Gujarat will place orders for 1 million tonnes next week, news agency Reuters reported.

Pawar also said that efforts were on to get one coal mine in Chhattisgarh allocated to the power department in Maharashtra. Speaking to reporters here, Pawar said the supply of coal was not being done in the country the way it should be.

"Load shedding is going on in the state. A meeting was held on this issue by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. I will take a review of the power department every week on the issue of load shedding and the cabinet has given its approval to check whether there is any availability of power in the country," he said.

Efforts are being made to do away with load shedding and to ensure smooth power supply in the state, the senior NCP leader said. "Coal supply to several states is insufficient.

Maharashtra is also not getting enough supply and that is why we have taken a decision to import coal to some extent from outside the country.

Besides that, efforts are being made to get one coal mine allocated for Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited (Mahagenco)...Energy Minister Nitin Raut is working on it," Pawar added.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has also asked the Chattishgarh government which is of a similar ideology, to allocate one coal mine to Maharashtra, he said. Replying to a question whether the BJP-led Centre was indulging in vendetta politics by not providing coal to Maharashtra, Pawar said the supply of coal to various states was not happening the way it should be done.

"There are issues of railway wagons. Today, railway wagons are needed to transport coal, sugar, wheat and other essential commodities, which need to be taken to the ports. I do not want to bring any politics into it.

I do not want to make that kind of allegation, but it is a fact that there is a shortage of coal," the deputy chief minister said. Last week, minister Nitin Raut had said that load shedding in the state was a result of increase in electricity demand relaxation of the Covid-19 curbs, and blamed the Centre for poor management of coal supply.

Coal miners in South Africa, Australia and Indonesia are likely to be the main beneficiaries of India's buying spree, though those producers are already stretched by the recent spike in demand.

India's federal government has also asked the state governments of Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana to import a total of 10 million tonnes of coal.

While Punjab has committed to import 625,000 tonnes, the other states have not detailed any plans, the meeting minutes showed.

Maharashtra's expected 8 million tonnes of coal imports will be in addition to the 2 million tonnes it had already ordered, for which delivery is expected on May 8.

India had previously asked state government-run utilities to import 4% of their coal requirements for blending, but subsequently suggested last week that imports be boosted to 10% of the quantity needed to address soaring power demand.

Federal government-run NTPC Ltd, the country's top electricity producer, plans to boost coal imports to the highest level in eight years, Reuters reported last month.

Many Indian states including Andhra Pradesh in the south, Maharashtra in the west and Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan in the north are already facing power cuts.

(With inputs from agencies)

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