Policy soon on pricing 84 natural resources

September 4th, 2011 - 4:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Pranab Mukherjee New Delhi, Sep 4 (IANS) The finance ministry will soon place before the union cabinet a note for approval on pricing of natural resources such as spectrum, petroleum, coal, minerals and even forest land

“We already have with us the recommendations of a high-level committee in this regard. The Lokpal bill had shifted our focus away. Now, we hope to finalise the note soon and put it before the cabinet,” a senior official told IANS, requesting anonymity.

“There were some issues. There were some reservations expressed by some ministries. But most of it is being sorted out,” he said, adding: “The new policy will cover around 84 minerals including metallic and non-metallic ores and hydrocarbons.”

His earlier reference was to the committee headed by former finance secretary Ashok Chawla that submitted its report to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and subsequent examination by a committee of secretaries headed by Cabinet Secretary Ashok Kumar Seth.

The official explained that issues raised by a few relevant ministerial groups set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will also be considered — such as the one on green issues on coal mining, gas pricing as well as that on ultra mega power projects and corruption.

“Some of the policy decisions may require legislative action. They will be expedited.”

On the issue of coal, the Chawla panel has favoured an end to the monopoly of the state-run Coal India Ltd with independent mining companies allowed to supply to end-users, apart from a platform like Power Trading Corp to buy and sell the fossil fuel.

“The thinking now is it will be prudent to get the necessary regulatory clearances by the state itself before coal blocks are auctioned to private or public sector companies. We feel it is a legitimate demand by industry,” the official said.

Similarly, the committee wants an end to the current regime which determines which sector gets how much gas and at what price, but for the fertiliser industry. It wants this policy to end immediately for the power sector, and eventually for fertiliser.

Noting that the power and fertiliser industries consume nearly 75 percent of the total gas available in the country, the committee said: “It may be better to use gas to substitute for oil where possible, rather than coal.”

In petroleum, while the panel is happy with the current exploration policy, it wants a new system introduced wherein all blocks are to be identified and a registry created with all data so that companies can choose the blocks rather than cherry-picking by the government.

Then in the case of forest land, it wants them classified under three categories — go, no-go and go-only-if — and permission given accordingly. Then the penalties must not only cover the value of the trees felled but also factor in the land on which they grew.

(Arvind Padmanabhan can be reached at arvind.p@ians.in)

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