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Deaths spark plea for coal barracks
- Tinsukia move to keep tabs on miners

Jorhat, Dec. 12: In a bid to crack down on the illegal coal trade along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border in Margherita sub-division of Tinsukia district, the district administration has asked Coal India Limited to select an area under its possession for construction of barracks to house labourers.

The move comes in the wake of the death of four persons, including two women in two separate incidents in the past week that revealed that all four were involved in illegal mining and some even stayed in the staff quarters.

“We have received reports that labourers involved in the illegal coal mining were being allegedly provided accommodation by a section of Coal India employees in their staff quarters on rent. We have sent a notice to the PSU authorities in Margherita asking them to take action immediately,” Tinsukia deputy commissioner S.S. Meenakshi Sundaram told The Telegraph today.

He said the Coal India officials have also been asked to find a suitable plot on its premises to construct barracks for all labourers. Sundaram said labourers who were not engaged by the company were allegedly involved in illegal mining in forest areas. They were being provided accommodation in the staff quarters, which was not only illegal but also created a serious threat to Coal India’s assets, he added.

Sundaram said the administration has taken serious note of the same and directed the company to make the quarters free from outsiders at the earliest. He said the administration would have to take legal recourse if it was not done immediately. He said there were reports of some of the labourers engaged by the company were also being used by criminal elements.

The deputy commissioner said Coal India has been asked to set up barracks for labourers, who are supplied by registered contractors, in order to streamline the process and for easy identification. This would help to monitor their movements and stop them from moving out during non-duty hours, he added.

He said the proposed barracks should be in a well-demarcated area, which will create a protected and prohibited area for outsiders. “The rules and regulations to be followed within the barracks should be written in English, Hindi and Assamese,” Sundaram said.

Over 1,000 labourers are engaged by Coal India in its two coalfields — Tirap and Tikak — where open-cast mining is carried out. The company has three more coalfields — Namdang, Borgulai and Tipang — where underground mining was carried out earlier. But now it has been suspended with the PSU only carrying out limited experimental activity at times.

Sundaram said another step initiated by the administration to check illegal coal trade is a verification process of all labourers, contractual staff, homeguards engaged by Coal India. He said a format was being prepared, in which photographs along with necessary details and background information of the workforce will be entered to verify their antecedents by police.

Last week, the administration constituted a joint task force to tackle the problem. The force, to be led by an executive magistrate comprising personnel from police, forest and Coal India, will be stationed at Margherita.

Trucks seized

Police yesterday seized three trucks carrying illegally-mined coal at Arandhara Pahar in Margherita sub-division of the district.

Coal is illegally mined in the hilly forest areas on both sides of the inter-state border and transported to Assam to be sold there or outside, while some of it lands up in the coking units of Margherita.


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