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Eye on rebel link in coal trade

- Coal India, govt & police to monitor security at Margherita mines

Jorhat, Oct. 7: The Tinsukia district administration has initiated steps to crack down on illegal coal mining in the district under Margherita subdivision bordering Arunachal Pradesh, believed to be the main source of funds for the militant outfits of Assam and Nagaland, including Maoists.

The district administration and police have come together to take stock of the situation and evolve a mechanism to monitor security-related matters of mining done by Coal India Ltd.

Coal India engages private parties, which obtain labour force through contractors.

The moves comes after intelligence reports said militant groups from Assam and Nagaland were getting funds from the slush money earned from the illegal coal business.

There are also reports that the explosives allotted for blasting by Coal India Ltd to private parties end up in the hands of rebels.

A meeting was held at Margherita under the chairmanship of industry and power minister Pradyut Bordoloi on Friday, attended by Tinsukia deputy commissioner S.S. Meenakshi Sundaram, Tinsukia superintendent of police P.P. Singh, DIG (eastern range) P.P. Saikia, commissioner (Upper Assam division) S.I. Hussain and Coal India officials.

It was decided that the local administration, along with the police, would check the records of workers engaged directly by Coal India and records of explosives allotted to the private parties.

Coal India does open cast mining at four locations in the district — Tikok, Tirap, Tipong and Borgulai — along the Assam-Arunachal border.

The mining areas are in hilly areas surrounded by dense forests and security was entrusted to homeguards armed with .303 rifles.

However, this proved ineffective in preventing illegal mining in the areas by several well-organised gangs under the patronage of outfits like Ulfa, NSCN and very recently, the Maoists.

Sundaram told The Telegraph today that the minister directed the district administration, the police and Coal India to take immediate steps to curb illegal mining and close all illegal bhattas (coal processing units) operating in the district.

According to a confidential report available with the administration, nearly 50 illegal coal units were operating in the district and steps will be initiated by the administration, with the assistance of the police and Coal India, to shut them down.

The deputy commissioner said the meeting expressed concern about reports of rebels infiltrating the illegal coal trade and getting a share of the trade.

The police, along with district administration officials, will check the antecedents of workers engaged in mining after collecting the records from Coal India, he added.

Moreover, records of explosives’ allotments would be checked on a regular basis.

It should be ensured that any remaining explosives should be returned to the company.

Sundaram said Coal India had agreed to hire a dedicated force to guard its mining areas to prevent theft of its resources and take prompt action against trespassers.

He said Coal India had agreed to the administration’s suggestion to hire the services of the Assam Industrial Security Force.

Hussain said the deputy commissioner and SP of Tinsukia, along with subordinate officials, would hold a security review meeting with the Coal India authorities on a monthly basis to take stock of the measures initiated against the illegal trade.


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