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Mass transfer heat on Coal India executives

Calcutta, June 24: Scores of executives in Coal India’s (CIL) material management, sales & marketing and civil engineering departments have been served orders to head for new postings in mass transfers after the suspension of chairman . K. Sharma two weeks back.

Sources said at least 20 senior officials, in the rank of deputy general managers and above, have been asked to resume duties in various coal fields. A senior executive in the material management department — reckoned as the fountainhead of sleaze in Coal India — has been suspended. More heads could roll as the government draws up charge-sheets against Sharma and other officials who allegedly had their hand in the till.

Coal India would not say if it was on a black-sheep hunt, dubbing the transfers as a strategic move aimed at streamlining the operations of sensitive departments.

Of the 20 executives who have been shifted, 10 will move from one CIL subsidiary to another, eight have gone from the headquarters in Calcutta to the subsidiaries, and an equal number will leave the Delhi office.

A senior Coal India official denied the officials have been handed punishment postings, saying the move should merely be seen as a strategy to revamp the material management and marketing divisions. Employees who are working under the rank of deputy general managers have, however, not been shuffled around.

As transfer travails stalk officers, Coal India has kicked off a decentralisation of decisions to purchase materials to make the system more efficient and transparent.

The head-office can buy only explosives, while its subsidiaries will be free to purchase materials like PVC belting, pay-loader, tyres and heavy-mining equipment. CIL’s purchases amount to Rs 1750 crore, of which 50 per cent is for explosives. In effect, 50 per cent of the purchase-making decisions will now rest with arms.

The marketing department is also being revamped in a change that will vest more decisions with subsidiaries. Under the present system, Coal India markets output to the core sector — the biggest bulk customer — while its arms sell to the non-core sector directly.

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