India’s Coal Story


India’s Coal Story – From Damodar to Zambezi by Subhomoy Bhattacharjee, (Sage Publications India, April 2017) is an entertaining as much as an informative read. But to say that ‘Choose not to read it at your own risk’ in the blurb is cocky.

It captures the essence of the ‘Coal Scam’ that blacked former PM Manmohan Singh’s face, literally. It’s a racy book that does some justice to how India’s business history evolved for a hundred years or so.

The humble coal has been very important to India because it is tied not just to power but also to manufacturing especially steel. It’s India’s ill luck that even though it possesses one of the world’s largest coal reserves, the quality of coal is abysmal. This makes import of clean coal imperative, putting immense strain on foreign exchange reserves.

Despite coal seen as a dirty mineral, India will continue to depend on coal for at least two more decades for power generation, big advances in renewable energy notwithstanding. The good news is newer technologies are emerging to convert dirty coal into clean coal. The earlier India adopts this technology (thanks to Japan), the better it is for the environment.

It’s good to see India’s zestful commitment to the Paris Climate Change accord. This government seems to have the will and the plan to do the right things. Getting the coal story right will be one
of them.

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