Coal miners galore in state politics

Citizen’s report names Ymbon, Dhar, Kyrmen, Rymbui

SHILLONG: A citizen’s report on coal mining has named several ministers, MLAs and opposition leaders who are mine and weighbridge owners.
The report, which has been submitted to the amicus curiae Colin Gonsalves and was filed in the Supreme Court, says the NGT ban on coal mining has been flouted as there is “a serious conflict of interest” with many public representatives involved in mining.
According to the report, Comingone Ymbon, MLA of Raliang in West Jaintia Hills and GAD minister, owns mines and weighbridges. Another Cabinet minister, Sniawbhalang Dhar, who represents Nartiang, owns and controls weighbridges.
The family of Kyrmen Shylla, MLA of Khliehriat, is also into mining. In fact, his father, Kor Sympli, is one of the biggest miners in the area and was once an elected member of the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council, the report stated.
Lahkmen Rymbui, who represents Amlarem in West Jaintia Hills, is a former sales tax inspector and belongs to a mine-owning family. His wife Eurica Tariang is a mine owner.
Jowai legislator Wailadmiki Shylla, the brother-in-law of Dhar, is a mine owner and is currently minister in charge transport. Congress MLA from Sutnga Saipung Shitlang Pale and Mawhati MLA Dasakhiatbha Lamare, who is the nephew of Dhar and son of former MLA Ngaitlang Dhar, are also in the miners’ league, according to the report.
The report also said Shillong MP Vincent Pala is a mine and cement factory owner.
Nongstoin MLA Macmillian Byrsat is a mine owner and the Lyngdoh of Hima Nongstoin. Mawshynrut MLA Gigur Myrthong, Mahendraganj MLA and Mukul Sangma’s wife Dikkanchi D Shira too own mines.
Gavin Miguel Mylliem, the Sohra MLA, is a weighbridge owner.
The report said the state government estimates present day coal reserves at 576.48 million tonnes, though only 133.13 million tonnes are classified as ‘proved’, adding that the coal boom in Meghalaya has seen annual production rise from 39,000 tonnes in 1979 to 5 million tonnes in 2014.
In spite of protections guaranteed under the Sixth Schedule and various laws protecting land rights of tribal community, there is large scale land alienation and displacement of tribal poor, the report noted.
“Even the Socio Economic Caste Census 2011 shows that unlike what is expected in the area where constitutional protections are given to tribal communities, there is large scale privatisation of land and land alienation to the powerful and rich in the community. With 76 per cent of the local tribal community having no land means that inequalities are increasing day by day and consequently large scale migration of tribal poor due to displacement is happening from coal mining areas to urban centres like Shillong and Tura. This is a result of coal mines being forcefully privatized and hence preventing access to land by the many,” the report said.
It also said unregulated mining in Meghalaya has resulted in serious environmental degradation and large scale violations of labour laws and livelihood disruptions because of flow of cheap labour brought in by miners. Strict enforcement of existing laws is urgently required. Till such time NGT-monitored stay should continue.
The report pointed out that absence of specifications and collusion in terms of dimensions of carriers and trucks, weighbridges and checkpoints and issuance of challans have meant great loss to the state exchequer. It is only after NGT ban that proper estimates of extracted coal, movement of trucks and penalty were estimated.
“Plugging of transportation and taxation loopholes are perhaps possible through use of GPS tracking systems, tagging and use of IT setups to ensure transparency and tax compliance,” it added.
The citizen’s report urged the court to take stock of the ongoing illegal mining despite the NGT ban as well as illegal transportation through real-time satellite data.
The report said it is crucial to have an independent committee to be monitored by the Supreme Court with state offices to be able to withstand the conflicts of interest and to be able to implement and put in all the environmental compliances in Meghalaya.
“An immediate order to direct that all commercial vehicles plying into North East from bolero pickup, dumper, trucks 4, 6 wheel 12 wheel, 16 wheel etc be fitted with GPS so as to be able to track and figure out their entry and exit including mapping the weight as the National Highways cuts across Assam to Meghalaya to Mizoram to Tripura. Technology is available for this,” it added.
The report sought directions to the State of Meghalaya to implement the Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011, to extend protection to all citizens and their family members who are bringing to the notice of authorities concerned the violations of the orders passed by the NGT and the courts and are intimidated, threatened and harassed.

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