Opposition over coal transport was due to COVID-19: CM

Shillong, May 22: Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma claimed that protests staged in East Jaintia Hills were not because of transportation of coal from Assam, but because of concerns regarding plying of trucks from outside the state amidst COVID-19 crisis.

The Chief Minister, in his reply to call the attention motion by Mawlai MLA P.T Sawkmei, said that strict measures were undertaken including thermal tests for drivers and handymen, sanitisation of trucks etc. He said that standard protocols for inter-state travel were implemented.

He also said that all the truck drivers were directed to carry packed food and not halt near villages or settlements.

Sangma said that the Ministry of Home Affairs issued guidelines issued on 15th April and 1st May permitted industrial operation in rural areas including coal production, mines, mineral production and transportation.

He added that Ministry of Mines on March 26 had also advised the states to ensure that continuity of operation of steel, aluminium, copper and cement plants during lockdown.

On May 1st, the state government allowed cement plants to operate at 50% capacity subject to strict compliance of protocols issued by MHA and Ministry of Health and Family affairs.

“Three cement plants, Star cement, Meghalaya cement and Dalmia cement Ltd, sought permission to transport coal lying at Railway siding Guwahati,” the Chief Minister said, adding that the railway authorities had directed the cement plans to transport the coal without delay.

Taking this into account, Sangma said that the cement plants were allowed to transport the coal. “The MHA guidelines strictly say that there should be no restriction on inter-state movement on goods and cargo. We also obtain essential goods from other states. Legally, we cannot restrict transportation of coal from Guwahati,” he said.

He added that these cement plants can purchase coal through auction of 2 lakh MT if they have an agreement or understanding with successful bidder if they will participate in the auction.

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