Conrad, Mukul spar over coal mining issue

First hour consumes 57 minutes on single issue

SHILLONG: The Assembly on Wednesday witnessed a heated exchange of words between Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and Leader of Opposition Mukul Sangma on the issue of coal mining during the question hour.
The first hour of the session consumed almost 57 minutes which also upset the chief minister who reminded the House about other questions to be taken up during the question hour.
The argument was mainly regarding what the previous government had done to address the coal issue and the recent Supreme Court order which allowed scientific mining.
The initial questions on coal mining were from UDP associate MLA SK Sunn.
Conrad answered five questions raised by Sunn on various aspects of the order of the court.
Later, Mukul raised a question and said the statement of Conrad was not to the point and in response, the chief minister stood up to give more clarity.
Mukul then asked about the Mines and Minerals Policy 2012 to which Conrad said that it is still applicable but the provisions will have to be adjusted.
Mukul then asked whether any meetings were held with regard to the process for legal mining and took a dig at the government saying that illegal coal mining is still taking place in the state.
However, the chief minister said the government had worked hard which led to the balanced verdict of the Supreme Court.
Conrad said multiple meetings were held regarding resumption of coal mining and the present government is moving more expeditiously than its predecessor.
Mukul also asked whether any timeline was fixed for legal mining and asserted that no steps have been taken to expedite the matter.
In response, Conrad asked, “What happened in the last 5 years?”
Stating that he can give details about what happened in the past five years, Conrad favoured a comparison to be drawn regarding how the coal issue was addressed by the present and the previous governments.
Mukul pointed out that the state government in the past had sought exemption from the central mining laws and the Centre had even agreed to it.
However, the state government did not file any affidavit in this regard in the Supreme Court, Mukul said.
“You messed it up and it was our work”, Mukul added.
In response, Conrad said the letter from the ministry of coal regarding exemption was in 2015.
“What did you do for the last three years and who messed it up?” Conrad asked.
Mukul, however, said the ministry of coal does not work alone.
Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong said that too much time was spent only on one question and hence urged the opposition MLAs to bring the matter in the form of a short duration discussion.
To a supplementary question on mining lease, the chief minister said both the state government and the Centre will approve the mining lease.
Conrad said the individual will obtain mining lease and this will be executed by the state and the Centre.
Seeking further clarity on the matter, Mukul asked another question and said the reply of the chief minister reflects how much homework he has done.
To substantiate his stand, he referred to para 130 of the final order of the court.
Mukul also said the government is not serious as it suits their interest to carry out illegal mining activities.
Court order
The court order said as per the statutory provisions contained in Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 especially Chapter V, a mining lease for minerals, which belongs to a private owner or a community owner, “it is not the state government, which is entitled to receive any application or grant any mining lease, but it is the private owner or community owner, who is entitled to grant a lease for mining minerals owned by them”.
Earlier, Deputy Speaker Timothy Shira had already announced that the House will pass on to the next question but the spat between Conrad and Mukul continued.
However, the squabble created by the two leaders was upstaged by a veteran politician’s presence of humour. It was the voice of the deputy chief minister that was heard amidst the commotion when he replied to the next question which finally quelled the spat between the two Sangmas.

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