MMDR Act lands district councils in trouble

SHILLONG: The Supreme Court ruling to resume coal mining as per the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 may put the district councils in trouble.
The councils used to get 25 per cent royalty from major minerals like coal whereas 75 per cent used to go to the state government.
As far as minor minerals are concerned, the share of royalty between district councils and the state government is 60:40.
The July 3 court order had said that the district councils do not have any power to make any law with regard to grant of mining lease. The mining leases for mining the major minerals have to be granted in accordance with 1957 MMDR Act and Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, the order had said.
According to the apex court, there is nothing in Sixth Schedule of the Constitution which in any manner excludes the applicability of MMDR Act, 1957 in the tribal areas of Meghalaya.
When contacted, the Chairman of KHADC and former Chief Executive Member, P N Syiem said if the MDCs want, they can discuss the issue in the upcoming session of the council.
To a question, he said it is upto the KHADC to move a review petition before the Supreme Court or seek exemption of MMDR Act by pursuing the matter with the Centre as only a Presidential notification can exempt Meghalaya from the purview of MMDR Act.
Sources said that with the Supreme Court order, the district councils and the state government will be in a dilemma as far as share of royalty from coal is concerned as the land and whatever is beneath its surface belong to the people or the community.
There is no mention of district councils in the MMDR Act though the land is also under Sixth Schedule.
The irony is that though the land belongs to the people or the community, mining will have to be carried out under MMDR Act.
The state government had passed a resolution in the Assembly to seek exemption for Meghalaya from the purview of MMDR Act.
Earlier, the Congress–led government had also passed a similar resolution.
Opp concerned
Opposition Chief Whip and Congress legislator P T Sawkmie said besides the issues related to royalty, a cause for concern is that the district councils have no role to play in mining activities.
Sawkmie pointed out that section 18 (A) of MMDR Act speaks about Central government authorising the Geological Survey of India, or such other authority or agency, to carry out detailed investigations and they need not take permission from the district councils.
“The Congress party feels that the powers and functions of councils will be affected following the order of the Supreme Court”, Sawkmie said.
He also pointed out that with MMDR Act, only big players will be able to carry out mining activities as the small and marginalised miners will be facing difficulty in getting various clearances.
He said there is a need to seek exemption from the purview of MMDR Act.

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