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Task force to keep check on mining
- Team to close coking units

Jorhat, Dec. 6: The Tinsukia district administration today constituted a joint task force to tackle illegal mining and related activities.

The task force, to be led by an executive magistrate comprising personnel from police, forest and Coal India Limited, will be stationed at Margherita sub-division of the district bordering Arunachal Pradesh.

The task force will tackle illegal mining, theft of coal and transportation from coalfields and close illegal coking units (bhattas) in the coal belt along the inter-state border.

Coal is illegally mined in the hilly forest areas on both sides of the boundary and transported to Assam to be sold in the state or outside. Some of it lands up in the coking units of Margherita. These units pose a big threat to the environment, according to a recent report by the district administration.

On the other hand, the administration has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the killing of three persons at an illegal mine on a hilltop at Lachitkhani Mulunggaon of Ledo under Margherita police station yesterday. The accident occurred following the caving in of the rat-hole mine and subsequent fire, official sources said.

Tinsukia deputy commissioner S.S. Meenakshi Sundaram has asked the executive of Margherita sub-division Bipul Das to probe the incident after the bodies of two women and a man were recovered today. The victims have been identified as Tahirun Begum, Firoja Begum and Akhtar Ali, all hailing from Karimganj district.

Sundaram told The Telegraph that an executive magistrate would lead the task force with the forest department personnel comprising a range officer supported by two forest officers, five jawans of the Assam forest battalion. The policemen will consist the sub-divisional police officer of Margherita, circle inspector of Margherita, seven armed constables and Coal India contingent will have the chief security officer of Margherita and five armed homeguards.

The deputy commissioner and superintendent of police of the district will monitor the functioning of the team. He said the special team to check “all illegalities” in the coal trade has started functioning from today by conducting operations at Jagun. “The task force will exclusively deal with all activities related to illegal mining and not used for other work,” Sundaram said.

He said the administration has also decided to involve the villagers living near the forest areas along the border to assist the task force. He said a public committee with 18 members has been formed today after a meeting at Ledo police station, which was attended by village headmen, gaon panchayat presidents and members, students, representatives of social organisations, political parties, labour unions and Coal India and police and forest department officials.

“There is already a strong opinion among people against the lure of easy money that was driving local youths towards the illegal trade which endangers their lives,” Sundaram said.