New Delhi: Outlining the major steps taken to improve fuel availability for power generation, President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday said the government is in the process of allocating 17 coal blocks to state-run companies.

"Following the notification of the new auction by competitive bidding rules, my government is in the process of allocation of 17 coal blocks to government companies, as a first step," Mukherjee said in his first address to a joint sitting of both Houses of the Parliament, at the start of the Budget Session.

Other steps such as the modernisation and development of new coal blocks by hiring Mine Developer and Operator (MDO) have been taken to improve the productivity of state miner Coal India, Mukherjee said.

The government started the process of allocation of mines under the amended provisions of Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation Act. The Coal Ministry had in December invited proposals from state-run undertakings for allotment of mines to them, mostly for captive power plants.

A ministry source said that it has received over 300 applications, that include more than 200 from the power sector and 35 from mining firms, with regard to the 17 coal blocks earmarked for government companies.

Companies that have applied for the coal blocks include NTPC, Neyveli Lignite Corporation and iron ore company MOIL, the coal ministry source said.

The new process of allocating coal mines was initiated following the official auditor's report of potential losses of Rs.186,000 crore to the exchequer on account of allotment of blocks to 57 private firms without auction.


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