A burning issue
India needs lots of coal to power its energy needs. Increasingly, the gap is being filled through imports.
Yet, amazingly, the problem is not that there is a shortage of coal in the country but more the wherewithal to mine it.
Petroleum imports have always been the sore spot in India's trade balance. It is India's top import and the primary cause of persistent trade deficit.
Now, it is the turn of another fuel, coal, to weigh on India's trade balance.
During the financial year 2013-14, India imported coal worth Rs 93,293 crore or $15.47 billion. From being almost self sufficient in coal a decade back, India is now among the three largest importers.
Coal was the seventh largest item in India's merchandise trade during FY14, accounting for 3.7% of total imports.
Unlike oil, India has large reserves of coal pegged at over 300 billion tonne. India is also the world's third largest producer of coal after China and the US.
However, production has not kept pace with demand and as a result, India has moved from a position of near self-sufficiency in coal production 15 years back to importing over 20% of its requirements.
Text: Amit Bhandari, www.indiaspend.com