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Miners’ panel slams tribunal

Tura, May 15: The Coal Miners’ Association today criticised the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council for being a mute spectator to the National Green Tribunal’s ban on mining.

The association slammed the council for not being a part of the legal battle against the ban on coal mining in Meghalaya. George Marak, a mine owner, said, “The district council is only interested in collecting revenue. It should have raised its voice against the ban, which is its source of revenue.”

The government and miner owners are appearing before the tribunal on Monday to oppose the ban.

“The state government has been helping us reverse the ban. However, as the custodians of Garo hills and its people, the GHADC is silent. The Khasi Hills and Jaintia hills autonomous district councils are meeting the miners regularly and fighting the ban. Where is the CEM of GHADC?” asked Marak, who is also the joint secretary of the State Coordination Committee of Coal Miners and Dealers’ Forum.

Another coal exporter from Nangalbibra in the South Garo Hills, Chiang D. Shira, said, “The ban on mining will hugely affect the livelihood of more than 10 lakh people in Meghalaya. We are united in opposing the ban.”

The convener of the forum, S.L. Khyriem, said, “Our fight is for those who are dependent on the coal business. Where will they go? The ruling of the NGT is arbitrary. It should have given us time to work on ways to improve the current scenario.”

Miners across the state have announced a day of solidarity against the tribunal’s ban with a strike as well as a black-flag march on May 17.

“Our strike is to show solidarity against the ban and it will not affect government offices or schools, but only business establishments and shops. The 12-hour strike will start from 5am,” said M. Kharkongor, the secretary of the forum.

“The tribunal should have done a reality check to see the impact of the ruling. If it was only the mafia that was benefiting and not the state or the people, why is the whole state trying to fight the ban?” asked Kharkongor.

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