Monday, June 24, 2024

Open letter to the Chief Minister


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By H H Mohrmen

Dear Dr Mukul Sangma,
As a citizen of this beloved state of ours I am very concerned with the state of affairs in Meghalaya particularly the issue pertaining to NGT ban and mining in the state. Sir, our embarrassment is not only because even after more than four decades of having our own State, we do not have an acceptable mining policy to regulate mining, but what worries me most is that our State is even trying to avoid the implementation of the national environment and mining laws which seek to protect and preserve our environment. To top it all, the government instead of trying to comply with environment and mining laws as per NGT directives is trying to invoke Para 12 (A) of the Sixth Schedule to escape the NGT and other national acts.
What is intriguing is that the government which has failed in its duty to protect the environment is seen interacting with miners who have shown tendency to flout the laws and to blatantly violate the recent NGT ban as reported in the press. Is it wrong then Mr Chief Minister to say that by hobnobbing with the miners the Government is indirectly encouraging them to violate the NGT ban? One would expect the Government to send a strong message to the violators of the ban and avoid meeting them till they mend their ways. Alas! The Government under your leadership showed leniency to those who violate the law with impunity. I would therefore like to ask some hard questions about the future plan of the Government with regards to mining in the state.
Sir, may I also remind you of the Office Memorandum of Ministry of Environment and Forests, Dated  18th May 2012 circulated to all state governments in which reference was made to the operative portion of the  Hon’ble Supreme Court  order relating to mining of minor minerals applicable to all state Governments,  which reads as follows:-  “We in the meanwhile, order that leases of minor minerals including their renewal for an area of less than 5 hectares be granted by the states/ UTs only after getting environmental clearance from the MoEF”. The above Supreme Court order is a directive to all regulatory and administrative authorities to take appropriate action in accordance with the directives of the Court. It is a clear and distinct order without ambiguity whatsoever but because the State has not paid heed to the memorandum hence mining in Meghalaya has come to such a pass.
In view of the above order, mining of all minor minerals within Meghalaya, irrespective of size of operations, ownership of land in use, etc. that have not received sanction of the State Environment Impact Assessment Committee (SEIAC) or MoEF clearance are illegal operations. Sir, may I also turn your attention to the mining of limestone without SEIAC in many parts of Meghalaya such as in Nongtalang, Pynursla and Shella areas. It is a matter of a grave concern that the State Government together with the three Autonomous District Councils has chosen to ignore the above Supreme Court order. This is tantamount to a total disregard, disrespect and utter contempt of orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court order and is liable to attract contempt proceedings because of such disregard.
Sir, in this connection I had sought information through RTI to find out if any State Environment Impact Assessment or mining leases were issued to limestone miners in Nongtalang in particular. The reply from the office of the Directorate of Mineral Resources Shillong, the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board, the DC’s Office of West Jaintia Hills and the DFO Territorial Division are all in the negative. Yet the government is allowing this mining to continue illegally!
Sadly, even after the NGT’s intervention, the Government still adopts a nonchalant attitude to mining. May we therefore ask whether the reported destruction of the environment and the subsequent ban on coal mining is based on unfounded information? Isn’t there any truth in the allegation that streams and rivers in the coal mining areas are dead? Or does the government think that this is just a figment of somebody’s imagination and everything is hunky-dory ?
Mr Chief Minister Sir, if you are not convinced of what has been repeatedly reported about unregulated and unscientific mining having an irreparable damage on the environment of the State, may I suggest that you to talk to your colleague Dr R.C. Laloo an ecologist of repute and a scholar par excellence who had guided many PhD thesis on the subject, to know the truth. And a question may also be asked about your colleague and second in command, the person who claims on every World Environment Day celebration that environmental studies is his area of specialization as to why we don’t see his contributions in the cabinet or the Assembly on this very vital issue? What is the use of the research findings in the research studies he has guided if they are not being used? What is the use of having a Professor of Ecology in the Government if he cannot be an advocate for change in the Government at least on issues related to area of his expertise? Or are we to understand that PhDs are just badges of honour that one proudly wears on one’s chest?
Dr Sangma, even if you choose to ignore the truth that water bodies in the mining areas are polluted and rivers are bereft of any life forms, because mining in the state is without any regulations, the pertinent question is whether we should allow mining to continue without any regulations? How many more rivers do we want to kill? We have killed many rivers in Jaintia hills. So is the government planning to kill rivers in West and SW Khasi hills too? Is it your Government’s agenda to kill the rivers in all the mining districts of the State too? Sir, the rivers in these districts will follow the deadly path of Lukha, Myntdu and Kupli if the Government does not get its act together and start regulating mining in Meghalaya.
You may be wrong in assuming that the silent majority is against any regulation or are indifferent to the issue, but you must also be aware that the Martin Luther Christian University (MLCU) has taken a public stand to support the NGT ban for conserving our fragile environment. People will take a stand at an opportune time and rest assures Mr Chief Minister, they will side with the truth. In fact that is exactly what I intend to do. I would urge all the citizens of this state to write a letter to the Chief Minster demanding that the Government take concrete steps to protect and conserve the environment of this State.
I would encourage young people, particularly students, to write a letter to the Chief Minister and tell him that we are very concerned with the rampant destruction of the ecosystem and the Government’s nonchalant attitude towards the environment.  It could be a one- sentence letter or perhaps students can send a self-made postcard to the Chief Minister’s secretariat and if children cannot afford the cost of stamps they can hand the envelope addressed to the Chief Minister of Meghalaya at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, Main Secretariat Shillong, to the DC’s office of their respective districts. Those who live far from the district headquarters can hand their letters to the Block Development Officer of their respective blocks. Every citizen of this beautiful state should send a letter to the CM’s office and convince others to write too.
If this new form of protest works, we hope to flood the Chief Ministerial Secretariat with letters and postcards and show the world that the people of Meghalaya can be innovative; that they can protest without disrupting public lives. The people of Meghalaya particularly the children and the young people are aware of what is going on and know how to use their democratic rights. Through this open letter I would request all the teachers also to be proactive and help the students of their schools to send the letter to the Chief Minister knowing that the future belongs to them and we are only instruments in guaranteeing that the future citizens of this state enjoy their fundamental right to clean air, pure water and a pleasant environment to live.  We will do this for our children and I hope you will do too Mr Chief Minister for the sake of your children and your grand children.


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