SHILLONG, Jul 4: Opposition leader and former state Chief Minister, Dr Mukul Sangma, questioned the state’s and the centre’s U-turn with regards to the resolution adopted in the Meghalaya Legislative assembly in 2015 urging the government of India to ensure that the Coal Mines (Nationalisation )Act 1973 and the MMDR Act 1957 shall not apply in Meghalaya.
Dr Sangma said that the exemption for Meghalaya was also agreed upon by the Ministry of Coal, which was the culmination (result ) of long drawn consultations at the level of the committee led by the Cabinet Secretary, ( committee constituted by the then Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, based on Dr Sangma’s proposal as then Chief Minister in 2014.
The committee includes the Secretaries of Ministry of Mines, Ministry of Coal, Ministry of Forest & Environment & CC besides other ministries of GOI and the Chief Secretary Of Meghalaya.
He said that the official view of Ministry of Coal was conveyed in 2015 and this stand (view) of the Ministry formed part of the official stand of government of India which was also placed before the Supreme Court in the form of government affidavit in January 2019.
“What will be the consequences keeping in mind the complexities and lengthy procedures that the mine owners- particularly the small mine owners have to go through?” Dr Sangma said.
It may be mentioned that the Supreme Court on Wednesday while delivering its final judgement on the case of ban on coal mining in Meghalaya allowed coal mining operations in the state, on the privately and community owned land subject to the permissions from the concerned authorities.
The Supreme Court said, “We clarify that in event mining operations are undertaken in privately owned/community owned land in Hills Districts of Meghalaya in accordance with mining lease with approved mining plan as per Mine and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and Mineral Concessions Rule, 1960, the ban order dated 17.04.2014 of the tribunal of the NGT shall not come in way of carrying mining operations.”
Dr Sangma said that the fallout of the U-turn will be, middle men and benami businessmen who will prosper at the cost of the people.
“The government didn’t do it’s homework except to mislead the honourable Supreme Court that more than 32 lakh metric tons of extracted coal were still lying in the mining areas in four districts which never existed with a clear intent to thrive on by facilitating illegal coal mining,” the opposition leader alleged.
Dr Sangma said that those interested to protect the state’s interests can find out what’s happening in the coal mine areas and along the National Highways.
Meanwhile, the opposition leader also said that another important part of the Supreme Court ruling was to let Coal India Limited to auction off the extracted coal because of illegalities on the part of the state government in respect of coal mining in the state had come to the fore.
“That means (the help of) a third party has been felt to be required to be involved in this exercise, because a number of times the NGT made it abundantly clear that illegalities are going on,” Dr Sangma said.
He also pointed out that the Supreme Court abruptly stopped its own order of December 4, 2018 which allowed transportation of coal, due to the killing of 15 miners in Khloo Ryngksan area of Lumthari village, East Jaintia hills after an illegal mine got flooded on December 13.
“These are clear indications the Supreme Court had to resort to giving judgement wherein a committee has to continue to monitor the whole assessment and transportation,” Dr Mukul added.
The opposition leader while welcoming the judgment said that this will ensure that the state government’s priority which has been more focused on allowing illegalities in respect of coal mines will be completely brought under control in the interest of the state and it’s people.