Shillong, May 2: The Meghalaya government has constituted a committee for preparing points to be submitted before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which came out with an interim order banning “illegal rat-hole” mining across the state.
Additional chief secretary K.S. Kropha heads the committee.
Briefing reporters after the cabinet meeting here today, which discussed about the NGT’s ruling and its ramifications in the state, chief minister Mukul Sangma said the committee would guide the line departments to prepare points that should be placed before the NGT.
But the chief minister dodged definite reply to a question if mining activities in the state were illegal. “I’ll not answer that question at this juncture because of historical reasons,” he curtly replied. According to Sangma, everybody knows the mandate of the law and its provisions and the whole mining in the state was happening because of political decisions from time immemorial.
The Tribunal had on April 17 ordered a stop to rat-hole coal mining across Meghalaya as it observed that neither the government nor the people were benefiting from the “illegal mining” except for the “coal mafia”, while warning against illegal transportation of the mineral.
Sangma claimed that the government was yet to receive the NGT order officially till date, but based on media reports, the government would act without waiting for the order.
The NGT said, “It has also been brought to the notice of this Tribunal that by such illegal mining of coal neither the government nor the people of the country are benefited. It is only the coal mafia that benefits by following these sort of illegal activities. We are of the considered view that this act should be condemned and in any event such illegal activities are to be put to an end and the state of Meghalaya should come forward with an appropriate scheme and the statutory rules.”
The NGT had acted on an application filed by the All Dimasa Students’ Union (ADSU) and Dima Hasao District Committee (DHDC) from Assam before it on April 2.
While admitting the application, the NGT also directed the Meghalaya chief secretary and director- general of police to ensure that “rat-hole mining/illegal mining” is stopped forthwith throughout the state of Meghalaya and any illegal transport of coal shall not take place until further orders were. The DGP was also directed to report to the tribunal about the compliance of the order by the next date of hearing.
The NGT has the hearing on May 19 and possibly, the state government would submit its arguments and justifications on the steps that it had taken based on the order besides steps taken to regulate mining activities in the state.
Sangma claimed that the state government had already taken measures even prior to the order of the NGT by coming out with the Meghalaya Mines and Mineral Policy, 2012, which conform to scientific mining and statutory rules related to mining.
Stating that the people have to be acclimatised before implementing the mining policy, the chief minister said, “In the absence of the actual implementation of the policy in the field, the NGT based on the petitions of ADSU and DHDC has proceeded with the ruling.” Sangma said during a meeting with coal dealers associations from Khasi-Jaintia and Garo hills, they were clearly told about the measures taken by the government and the need to adhere to the policy for safety of miners and environment.
He also said the policy framed by the government was not confined only to coal mining, but limestone and other minerals in the state.
Though the tribunal observed that neither the government nor the people benefited from the “illegal mining” except “coal mafia”, the chief minister however said the state was benefiting from coal mining.
Jorhat superintendent of police A. Kaur has ordered an inquiry into the allegations levelled by family members of Siddharta Dutta Kaushik, that he was tortured in custody after he was arrested for extortion by Pulibor police here on April 16, reports our Jorhat correspondent.