Government opens coal sector to private commercial firms
20 February 2018: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has decided to open auction of coal mines to private parties for commercial purpose. The government had brought Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015 to start fresh allocations of coal blocks after the Supreme Court had cancelled allocation of 214 coal blocks in 2014 in the light of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report claiming graft and inconsistencies.
Coal India, a government of India Public Sector Undertaking has so far been the lone commercial miner in the country for over four decades accounting for 84% of India’s coal output. This move of the government will allow the entry of international players like BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Glencore thereby paving the path for privatization of the coal blocks.
All central trade unions have opposed the decision on several grounds. The trade union leaders apprehend that the move will gradually kill Coal India as private players will not do mining ethically. They also fear that workers will not be paid properly and there will be scant regard for environment. The trade union have also opposed the process in which the decision was taken – it was arbitrary without any discussion with the trade unions in the sector.
Surrogate mothers can now get maternity benefits
12 February 2018: The Ministry of Women and Child Development has directed the government to ensure maternity leave up to 26 weeks (180 days) to women employees opting for surrogacy as a motherhood option.
The direction has been issued in the light of a 2015 Delhi High Court order, in which the bench ruled against Kendriya Vidyalaya management which was denying maternity benefits to a teacher on the ground that she was not the biological mother of the child.