COVID: Power sector employees are frontline workers, but coal sector employees are not! Why?

  • The Central government had asked state governments on April 27 to arrange a special vaccination drive to ensure that all power sector personnel

  • However, no such direction has been issued so far for coal sector employees

New Delhi: Even as power sector employees have been designated by the government as frontline workers and a priority group for COVID-19 vaccination, employees in the coal sector in PSUs like Coal India Ltd (CIL) and Singareni Collieries Company Ltd (SCCL) are yet to be prioritised for vaccination. This is despite the fact that coal sector employees, just like their power sector counterparts, have been engaged in essential services through the course of the peaks of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to sources who spoke to PSU Watch on the condition of anonymity, Coal India Chairman and Managing Director Pramod Agrawal has also written a letter to the Ministry of Coal, urging the government to treat coal sector employees as frontline workers and facilitate procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for them on priority.

The issue has been highlighted by the All India Association of Coal Executives (AIACE) in a recent letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The AIACE has said that since coal is the prime source for meeting the country’s energy requirement, it is imperative that PSU employees in CIL and SCCL be treated as frontline workers.

“Coal being the prime source of energy for country’s needs, the employees of Coal India Ltd (CIL) and Singareni Collieries Company Ltd (SCCL) are doing their best to discharge their duties by observing COVID-19 protocols. Whole world was in safe zone at home during the lockdown, but coal sector employees were working. In this process, many employees and executives and their family members have lost their lives and many are still struggling for life,” said AIACE principal general secretary PK Singh Rathor in the letter.

COVID-19: Govt has asked states to treat power sector employees as frontline workers

The Central government had asked state governments on April 27 to arrange a special vaccination drive to ensure that all power sector personnel, working in both private and public sector — generation, transmission and distribution utilities — are vaccinated. While noting that uninterrupted power supply is essential from the point of view of ensuring seamless public health service delivery and to allow people to avail services online, the Ministry of Power had said, “Therefore, it is imperative that the Power sector personnel, many of whom have to work in close proximity with each other and have public interfaces, remain protected from the infection, so that all three wings of power supply, namely generation, transmission and distribution are able to collectively provide 24×7 uninterrupted power supply.” In line with the direction, various power PSUs like NTPC, NHPC and Power Grid have carried out vaccination drives for their employees and their families.

However, no such direction has been issued so far for coal sector employees. 

Over 5,400 employees at CIL COVID positive

In an official statement released on May 4, CIL had said that over 5,400 employees of the PSU had tested positive for COVID-19. The demand to treat CIL and SCCL employees as priority segment for COVID-19 vaccination comes close on the heels of the direction issued by the Ministry of Power for power sector personnel. 

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The AIACE has demanded to treat employees and contractual workers at CIL and SCCL as frontline workers as they are engaged in providing an essential service. Coal sector PSU employees have been working on a regular basis to maintain the supply of coal to thermal power plants for generation of electricity even at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hold mass vaccination for CIL, SCCL employees on priority: AIACE

While asserting that vaccination has proved to be “successful ammunition” in the war against COVID-19, the AIACE said, “Realising this, the government has rightly categorised the front-line health workers in the first phase of priority segment. Gradually, the government is increasing the scope of vaccination coverage to more and more population. It has even allowed vaccine procurement for different organisations.” 

“Keeping in view these developments, we request you to kindly issue needful orders from  your end, so that, these coal employees are allowed to be included in priority sector for  vaccination. We shall be grateful to you for allocation/procurement of vaccines at CIL and SCCL-level and arranging for vaccination at company hospitals. The employees, along with their eligible family members, are requested to be treated as frontline workers in lockdown,” the AIACE urged the Prime Minister.

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