Govt for taskforces to clampdown on coal mafia: Official

India is home to cumulative coal reserves of 267 billion tonnes, the largest in the world.

New Delhi: The Centre is planning setting up taskforces by December 2011 to crack down on coal mafia eating into the nation`s wealth.

"We will write to the concerned state governments to constitute high-level task force, headed by the Chief Secretary...officials of coal companies and a representative from Ministry of Coal," a senior Coal Ministry official said.

Such taskforces will come into existence by December 2011, the official said, adding that the Director Vigilance of the Ministry will be the nodal officer for it.

Last month, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal soon after being elevated to the Cabinet rank had pledged to wipe off coal pilferage by the mafia.

There are about 10,000 mafia groups operating mostly in Coal India Ltd collieries and the annual plunder is at least 5-6 million tonnes, which is causing huge loss to the exchequer, he had said earlier.

The issue of coal pilferage is also being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation and other agencies.

CBI had last year conducted nation-wide drive, targeting corruption in coal sector and registered 12 cases pertaining to large-scale pilferage of the dry-fuel and other irregularities causing huge loss to the government exchequer.

Mafia operations are said to be rampant in CIL subsidiaries like Central Coalfields Ltd, Bharat Coking Coal Ltd, Eastern Coalfields Ltd and SCEL.

"Cases of illegal mining are detected predominantly in the Eastern region, mainly in the state of Jharkhand covering BCCL, CCL and ECL and West Bengal covering ECL and BCCL," the government had said in December last year.

India is home to cumulative coal reserves of 267 billion tonnes, the largest in the world, and the fossil fuel accounts for 55 per cent of the country`s energy needs.

State-owned CIL, which accounts for over 80 percent of the domestic coal production through its seven subsidiaries, marginally missed its output target of 435 million tonnes in 2009-10.

It has a production target of about 460 MT for this fiscal.

PTI