From Our Special Correspondent
Mukul SOS to Modi on NGT ban
New Delhi: With the wave of protests against National Green Tribunal’s ban on coal mining getting louder and louder in Meghalaya, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma finally stepped in urging the Centre to allow the State Government to regulate the largely unregulated mining activities in view of the peculiar ground realties in the Hill State which comes under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
In a letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, Sangma suggested to invoke 12A(B) of the Sixth Schedule so that application of Central laws relating to mining may be rescinded through a Presidential notification . “This will enable the state government to regulate mining activities in accordance with Meghalaya Mines and Minerals Policy, 2012,” he said.
Alternatively, the Central mining statues like Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973, Mines and Minerals Act, 1957 could be appropriately modified allowing the state government and the regional office of the Indian Bureau of Mines to regulate the mining in the state. But Chief Minister made it very clear that laws relating to environment, forest and child labour must remain under the domain of the Central government.
The paragraph 12A relates to application of Acts of Parliament and of the Legislature of the State of Meghalaya to autonomous districts and autonomous regions in the State of Meghalaya. The paragraph (b) deals with President’s power to exempt application of any Union law to an autonomous district or an autonomous region in the State of Meghalaya.
Interestingly, Sangma admitted that the mining activities in Meghalaya is “largely unregulated,” since the provisions of the mines act and other laws are not being enforced in the state. He also admitted that as a result of this unregulated mining has affected water sources, landscape and degradation of overall environment.
The Chief Minister also admitted that the unregulated and unscientific mining has become a safety hazard but said that the Government is trying to regulate the mining activities through the Meghalaya Mines and Minerals Policy, 2012. In fact, the NGT had banned coal mining in Meghalaya following complains about pollution of water sources and several deaths including those of children.
“But at the same time the sudden and total ban on coal mining in Meghalaya has caused immense hardship to all related to mining activities in the state,” Sangma said.
On top of this some vested interest exploited the situation with misinformation campaign on traditional rights of tribals which can create a sense of alienation among the sensitive population, he feared.
Explaining the whole situation, the Chief Minster said that over the times coal mining has become a major source of livelihood for people of the state and revenue of the Government. Meghalaya coal has also boosted industrial development in the entire Northeast particularly in cement plans, paper mills, ferro ally units, brick kilns, thermal power plants and even earned valuable foreign exchange in terms of export to neighbouring Bangladesh.
The Chief Minister brought out the paradox in mining activities in the hill state in view of different interpretation of laws. While in common parlance ownership of land means right over the surface in the state it also means both whatever stand on the surface like forest and under the surface like minerals since time immemorial, he pointed out.
Sangma also had a dig at the autonomous district councils who have not framed any legislation on land use leaving the whole thing to customary laws, rights and practices. The Centre way back in the 1897 had also made it clear that it had no intention of interfering with customary tribal rights and laws, he said.
This has led to a situation where indigenous mine developers or owners do not take any license or lease from Government, nor are the other mining or environmental regulations enforced on them, the Chief Minister said.
“Ï would be grateful if this proposal could be considered on priority as this will serve twin objective s of protecting the interest of those associated with coal mining as well as bring the mining operation under the fold of regulatory regime,” the Chief Minister added in his letter to the Prime Minister.