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Jaitley mines for substance

Ranchi, July 10: Jharkhand may crib over not getting an AIIMS or an IIT, but Narendra Modi government’s budget presented by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley today has given the mineral-rich tribal heartland enough reason to welcome achhe din with promises of greater mining royalty and tribal sub plan allocations.

Jaitley today categorically accepted that a revision of royalty rates of minerals was overdue for mineral-rich states and that Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation (MMDR) Act, 1957, needed amendments to resolve the ongoing impasse on coal and iron mining projects.

With a 26 per cent indigenous population, Jharkhand is also likely to reap benefits of allocations in tribal sub-plan.

Jaitley, hinting at the CBI probe on the coalgate scam in the previous UPA government’s tenure, promised to end the “impasse” in the coal sector, giving hope to Jharkhand’s non-starter projects.

“The current impasse in mining sector, including iron ore mining, will be resolved expeditiously,” he said.

On revising royalty rates, Jaitley added it had been a request of mineral-rich states.

As the rate of royalty on minerals can be revised after every three years and the last such exercise took place in August 2009, an amendment will pass on greater revenue to states, including Jharkhand.

Besides Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh are also among the most vocal voices seeking increase in royalty rates on minerals. The UPA had agreed to revise royalties, but did not go ahead with it.

Senior IAS and state finance secretary A.P. Singh welcomed the Centre’s move.

“Last fiscal, the state earned a royalty of only Rs 3,100 crore. We hope this would increase,” he said.

Top government sources revealed 80 per cent of mining royalty comes from coal and rest from iron ore and others. But the state bears the cost of subsidised mineral rates fixed by the Centre for PSUs. Moreover, per tonne rates of iron ore minerals are undervalued by firms in comparison to global or domestic market rates.

In January, Hemant and then chief secretary R.S. Sharma reiterated before a team of 14th Finance Commission that Jharkhand was India’s biggest depository and supplier of minerals, but got short-changed when it came to royalty.

Also being one of the main states hit by the “impasse” in coal brought about after coalgate, Jharkhand now reason to hope this would be resolved.

Proposed mining of coal and iron ore by big-ticket players Tata Steel, ArcelorMittal, Reliance Power, JSPL and JSW are held up for now.

The finance minister also proposed Rs 32,387 crore under tribal sub plan and announced Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana with an initial allocation of Rs 100 crore, both tribal-specific outlays that Jharkhand will gain from, provided it utilises earmarked funds.

For aspiring middle class happy with tax reforms, cheaper cosmetics, electronic appliances and the like, the AIIMS and IIT no-show was a let down. But, even doctors are laughing over how health minister Rajendra Prasad Singh said AIIMS would come up at his stronghold Bokaro, chief minister Hemant wanted it in Dumka and everyone hunting for a middle ground found one in Deoghar.

A member of Indian Medical Association in Ranchi said: “The recent AIIMS incident reminds me of the story of the monkey and two fools. As the fools fought over bread, the monkey took it away.”


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