New Delhi: Pralhad Joshi, the 56-year-old fourth-time Lok Sabha MP from Dharwad in Karnataka, has given charge of the ministries of coal and mines in the Narendra Modi government.
Inducted for the first time in the Union Cabinet, Joshi was the president of the Karnataka unit of the BJP. He will oversee the critical coal ministry that fuels India’s electricity needs.
The coal ministry was in the eye of the storm after the controversial coal-field allocations since the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) said in a report in August 2012 that the national exchequer had suffered a loss of ₹1.86 trillion because of a flawed allocation process. The previous NDA government had set up the coal block allocation process as a successful template for allocation of natural resources in India.
Joshi, who was also made in-charge, Parliamentary Affairs, will have to work in close coordination with the ministries of power and coal to ensure that India’s plans to mine 1.5 billion tonnes of coal by 2020 was achieved. Of this, one billion tonnes is from Coal India Ltd and 500 million tonnes from non-Coal India sources in line with the government’s push to raise natural resources production and kickstart economic growth.
With power sector being the primary customer of coal in India, Joshi will have to keep a close eye on the precarious finances of some state-owned electricity distribution firms, which prevents them from procuring power of the required quantum. As of September 2015, the total debt of all state-owned discoms was around ₹2.45 trillion, with ₹0.8 trillion serviced by states.
Interestingly, of India’s installed capacity of 349 gigawatts (GW), the peak demand is only around 177 GW.
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