Lokayukta to the rescue

The Meghalaya Lokayukta has risen to the occasion and done what should have rightfully been done by the government of the day. The primary role of government is to govern and the oldest and simplest justification for a government is that it should protect its citizens from violence apart from providing citizens with basic services. But modern governance entails maintenance of law and order. Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan describes a world that is fraught with insecurities without a government to provide the safety of law and order. Government is also the provider of goods and services that individuals cannot provide individually for themselves. To do so government raises taxes and revenues. Meghalaya has substantial mineral resources mainly coal and limestone. These should be utilised in a manner that is ecologically sustainable and should generate revenue for the state so that it can meet its strategic developmental needs. Road connectivity, waterways and bridges, education, health and agriculture are areas where major investments are required. To rely on the central government for all such expenditures is unreasonable as the state needs to meet its own share of the 90:10 funding arrangement.

It is therefore inexplicable as to why the Government of Meghalaya has consistently failed to come up with a comprehensive mining policy as required by the Supreme Court of India before it ventures into coal mining yet again, after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2014 banned the archaic and brutish rat hole mining where miners are buried inside flooded mines and die horrific deaths. That such a system of mining is allowed to carry on in a modern state in the 21st century has rattled human rights activists across the globe but not the apathetic government. Instead of coming out with a Mining Policy, the Government has turned coal mining into an underground activity run by the mafia. Hence legitimate revenue that should accrue to the state is going into private pockets of politicians, police and bureaucrats. This has been carrying on since 2014 in a clandestine fashion. The argument against a Mining Policy is that it will corporatize an otherwise private business. This argument goes against the grain of modern governance systems where mining is a regulated activity. Government cannot kowtow to private players who take no responsibility to regenerate the forests and rivers that have turned toxic in the mining areas. Is this not the prime responsibility of any government especially since rivers are a life force and had hitherto been supplying drinking water and supporting riverine life? Why is there complete apathy to this looming danger?

The Lokayukta has made a timely intervention by ordering a CBI probe into this venality. In fact, the Lokayukta carries the onus of stopping this sleaze once and for all.

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