Fearing that the allocation of more railway rakes exclusively for the power sector will jeopardise coal supply to the industries which use the fuel, the minerals industry has sought the intervention of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to ensure their operations are not disrupted due to coal shortage.
In a letter addressed to the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (Fimi) stated that Coal India had requested Indian Railways 296 rakes per day exclusively for the power sector, and such actions will put the non-power coal users in an “immensely precarious situation”.
Fimi pointed out that as many as 272 rakes per day were allocated for coal transportation to power and non-power sectors put together in November.
With the government taking several steps to address the issue of coal shortage at numerous power plants across the country in September-October, other industries — which run captive electricity generation units to supply electricity to its factories — have been complaining about the fuel crisis brewing in the sector.
Fimi’s letter, reviewed by FE, requested the PMO to advise Coal India and the Railway Board to earmark “at least 50 rakes per day for the non-regulated sector on an urgent basis to have sustained operations of these vital industries”.
Captive power plants have not been generating at full capacity to ration the fuel, and they have to source electricity from the grid and exchanges. Coal supply shortage had also pushed the industry to resort to imports, when international coal rates doubled in a year to around `12,000 per tonne.
The industry complained that coal supply to them has not resumed to normal levels even after fuel stocks at power plants have improved from the critical level of 4-days to the current situation of a more comfortable 10-days inventory.
The aluminium industry had sought the intervention of the PMO in end-October to resume regular fuel supply and allocation of adequate railway rakes.
Analysts at India Ratings had pointed out earlier that high coal requirement by the power sector may leave the other sectors such as cement, aluminium and steel in lurch which would have to increase their dependence on imported coal.