Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday for "equating" coal with diamonds, saying it shows the "headline-hunter" PM's "callousness and utter disregard for climate change realities".
"In this day and age to equate coal with diamonds, as our 'headline-hunter' Prime Minister has done, is environmentally disastrous and irresponsible. It shows his callousness and utter disregard for climate change realities," he wrote on Twitter.
The former Union environment minister also alleged that several coal blocks put up for auction on Thursday are located in dense forest areas classified as "no-go" zones jointly by the environment ministry and Coal India Limited in 2010.
"A doubly disastrous decision from an ecological point of view with terrible public health impacts," he said.
Modi kicked off a two-stage electronic auction process to allocate coal blocks for commercial mining on Thursday. He said the coal sector has been taken out of decades of lockdown.
With the onset of commercial coal mining, it is a "win-win situation" for every stakeholder and the market for coal is now open, the prime minister said.
"Maamla to koyle ka hai, par heere ke sapne dekh ke chalna hai (the matter is of coal, but we have to move forward with dreams of diamonds)," he said.