When will the next round of coal auctions be held?
Coal auctions for non-regulated sectors have already been approved by the Cabinet. Next month, we will start the process of giving out long-term linkages to the non-regulated sector. We have broadly planned to approach the Cabinet either later this month or the next month for the regulated sector, where complete transparency will be provided. We will be giving the linkages to the States so that they can then offer power purchase agreements coupled with the linkages and get very competitive pricing for the power they procure. Those States that already have procurement contracts will be allowed to use the coal either in their own State government plants or — again through a transparent process — give it out for new plants that they may want to set up in their State. We will also be offering coal to those companies and utilities that have power purchase agreements but do not have assured coal linkages. That will be the third category, which will be through a bidding and transparent auction process. The good part is that we are not in a hurry. India has surplus of coal. During the past 3-4 months, we had to regulate coal production, reduce it from its growing trends because of the surplus stocks.
Can you tell us how many states are yet to be covered under the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) scheme? What is the road map ahead for the discoms?
Almost all the States have informally told us that they would like to join. Most of the States have formally told us. Some of them, which had gone to election last month, had informally told us that they will join after the election. But it is a voluntary scheme which is beneficial for the States and their citizens. So I see no reason why any State will not join. But I am certainly not putting any specific effort to get all the States to join. I am confident that this programme was prepared after extensive consultation with all States and it is a win-win situation for all the States. So any State government which is looking after the interest of the people will only benefit by joining UDAY.