Sunday, July 21, 2024
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Govt doing all to ensure mining ban is lifted: CM

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SHILLONG: Chief Minister Mukul Sangma on Friday assured stakeholders in the mining business that the State Government has been actively engaged in dealing with the fallout of the ban on coal mining and coal transportation in the State by the National Green Tribunal which has affected the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people, directly or indirectly.
“Our indigenous tribal land owners have been carrying on coal mining activities as per customary rights and practices of our tribal people but the Central laws have come into conflict with the customary laws of our State,” he said while addressing a gathering of MLAs, MDCs and representatives of coal mining associations at U Soso Tham Auditorium on Friday.
The State Government, after exhaustive  engagement with the stakeholders, has framed measures to facilitate systematic and scientific utilization of mineral resources and notified the Meghalaya Mines and Mineral Policy, 2012, he stated.
However, in the implementation of the aforesaid Policy, certain provisions of certain Central laws have come in the way, he said. “In view of these, the State Government had taken up this issue in order to protect the interest of our indigenous people with the then Prime Minister in May, 2014 and again with the present Prime Minister in July, 2014 for invoking Paragraph 12 A (b) of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution so that application of the above Central laws relating to mining in the State may be rescinded through Presidential Notification,” Sangma said.
The Chief Minister also said that necessary measures to comply with the directives of the NGT have been taken by the State Government so as to enable lifting of the ban on both mining and transportation of the coal extracted.
Further, as per the order of the National Green Tribunal, the State Government has submitted the Mining Plan, Health Plan etc., to the Ministry of Coal and Ministry of Environment and Forests.
He urged concerned citizens, leaders of various political parties and stakeholders to make concerted efforts to prevail upon the Government of India on this issue and assured the people that all necessary measures will be taken to protect the interest of the people and create the right format to enable the people of the State realize the benefit of the natural resources while taking stringent measures to protect and preserve the environment.
Supporting an earlier suggestion by John F. Kharshiing about the formation of committees involving stakeholders, the Chief Minister said that the Government will look into the possibility of setting up two committees which will include officials from the Government and the stakeholders.
Before the interaction, Chief Secretary, P.B.O. Warjri, gave a summary of the action plan taken by the Government to ensure transportation of coal already extracted at the earliest and also the action taken with the respective Ministries of the Union Government on issues relating to environment and coal mining clearance.
Stating that the government is taking steps to protect the affected people and those engaged with coal mining peripheral activities, the Chief Secretary said that the Government has instructed all deputy commissioners to assess the impact of the NGT orders on the livelihood and to suggest suitable measures to provide employment opportunities from various programmes of the State Government.
Principal Secretary, Mining & Geology, Y. Tshering, outlined the aim of the meeting and also spoke about the steps taken by the Government in pursuing the directives laid down by the NGT.
Tshering also informed the public that in 2013-14, coal mining generated revenue worth Rs. 328 for the State which was shared by the State Government and the Autonomous District Councils in a 3:1 ratio.
He also informed that the assessment of coal already extracted could not be completed in West Khasi Hills and South Garo Hills Districts due to inclement weather. He expressed hope that these reports can be submitted in time to the concerned authorities so that the ban on transportation of coal could be lifted at the earliest.
Earlier, S.L. Khyriem, chairman of the state committee of coal miners and dealers association, lamented that the Government was not taking into consideration the stakeholders in its various decision including framing of the Mining Policy.
Abdul Kalam Hussain, member of Goalpara Truck Owners’ Association, said that the ban had not only affected Meghalaya but also Assam where many truck owners and drivers have been severely affected.
KHADC MDC K.P. Pangiang feared that if the ban on coal mining continues in the State, many people would be forced to go back to Jhumming cultivation which would further damage the environment.
Chief Executive Member of Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council, Thombor Shiwat, while informing that 80 per cent of JHADC’s revenue came from royalty on minerals, said that he was not sure how long the Council would survive if the ban is prolonged.
Co-chairman of State Planning Board, John F Kharshiing, suggested that the Government should form committees of political parties to find out measures on how to deal with the situation.
MIPRLM warns of intensified agitation
The Movement for Indigenous People’s Rights and Livelihood-Meghalaya (MIPRLM) on Friday warned of intensifying their agitation to protest against livelihood deprivation that came as result of the ban on rat-hole coal mining by National Green Tribunal (NGT).
MIPRLM also resolved to ask the Meghalaya Government to pass a resolution in the State Assembly for exempting NGT from Meghalaya.
Hundreds of people attending a public rally held at Polo Ground stood up in support of the resolution to intensify agitations against the ban.
Chief Minister Mukul Sangma also participated in the meeting and while speaking on the occasion, he said that Government would not give any extension to the Committee which is assessing the extracted coal as per the directives of the NGT.
He also said that livelihood of the people has been affected with NGT ban but mining in Meghalaya cannot go on this way and certain measures need to be taken to regulate the mining activities.
MIPRLM vice chairman Erwin K Sutnga informed that the core committee of the movement is likely to meet on Monday to discuss the resolutions taken at the meeting.
MIPRLM handed the resolutions of the meeting to the Chief Minister who attended the public rally before leaving for Delhi.
The Movement also urged the government to come out with a ‘while paper’ on the allegation of child labour in the coal mining areas by certain NGOs who have make wide national and international publicity in this regard,” the Sutnga stated.
On the impact of the ban on the livelihood aspect, the MIPRLM demanded the Meghalaya government to immediately undertake relief measures for the affected people of the State.
Mining ban handiwork of NEEPCO: Miner
A stakeholder identified as B. Swer of Jaintia Coal Miners’ and Owners’ Association created a flutter at U Soso Tham Auditorium on Friday when he claimed that the NGT ban on rat-hole mining in Meghalaya was the handiwork of NEEPCO.
Speaking at the meeting held with the MLAs, MDCs and representative of associations of coal mine owners and other stakeholders here, Swer said he had gone through the petition and found that the petition was prepared by NEEPCO and not by the Dimasa Students’ Union. He further alleged that NEEPCO had asked the president of the Dimasa Students’ Union to sign the petition.
“Why NEEPCO is playing game with us?” he asked.
However, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma intervened immediately and told the speaker not to get into other aspects as it would lead to controversies and asked him to give constructive suggestions on how to deal with the situation.
The speaker abided and concluded his speech.

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