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EJH DC gets 15 days to transport auctioned coal

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SHILLONG, April 26: Justice (retired) BP Katakey, who heads a single-member committee constituted by the High Court of Meghalaya, on Friday said a little over 70,000 metric tonnes out of the 14 lakh metric tonnes reverified and re-inventoried coal across East Jaintia Hills are left to be transported to the designated depots.
The district’s deputy commissioner and other authorities have been given 15 days to complete the process, he said.
He said the transportation of such coal is almost completed in three districts – South West Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, and South Garo Hills. In East Jaintia Hills, a little over 60,000 metric tonnes of a total of 1.3 lakh metric tonnes have been transported, leaving some 70,000 metric tonnes to be disposed of.
Katakey has directed the deputy commissioner of EJH to verify the 70,000 metric tonnes of coal to be transported to the designated spot. “The verification is important because the coal owners may not be interested in transporting it or the coal may be unavailable,” he said.
“The coal may not be available because it is already sold by the coal owners and not by the CIL (Coal India Limited). So, it needs to be verified whether there are 70,000 metric tonnes or less coal to be transported,” he said.
Katakey said the deputy commissioner has been instructed to verify the existence of the 70,000 and get the job done within 15 days if the coal owners do not come forward for transportation to the designated spot.
He said two auctions were held in March and November 2023. “Much of the coal put up for auction in November 2023 was sold but the lifting so far has not been satisfactory,” he added.
Out of the 4,42,800 metric tonnes put up for auction in March of that year, 3,38,490 metric tonnes were sold.
The bid value of 2,53,270 metric tonnes was paid by the successful bidders but only 1,93,714 metric tonnes were lifted.
“Therefore, out of the 3,38,000 metric tonnes sold on March 14, 2023, almost 1,45,000 metric tonnes have not been paid except the earnest money deposited,” Katakey said.
During another auction in March last year, 5,88,956 metric tonnes were sold but payment was made only for 1,48,353 metric tonnes. The bidders had sought an extension for lifting the remaining 4,40,000 metric tonnes as they claimed the market was down, he said.
He said this issue was also discussed in the meeting held on Friday. “Since the auction is by the CIL, the process takes a long time. We have to pay 10% of the value of the auction to the CIL apart from some amount to the MSTC, which conducts the auction,” he said.
“So, I told the government to allow them some extension for a reasonable period to pay for the entire auction value, if necessary in instalments, and with a notice to them that if you fail to pay the last instalment, the entire amount will be forfeited and coal would be re-auctioned,” he added.
Katakey said his effort is to transfer the inventoried coal to the designated depot so that it is in a central place and then carry out a drone survey of the four districts concerned for the availability of coal beyond the quantity auctioned or available for auction.
“Coal found after the transportation of the 14 lakh metric tonnes has to be illegally mined, which again has to be seized and put to auction. The price of such coal will not go to the coal owners but come to the state exchequer only,” he said.
“As you know, we could verify a little over 14 lakh metric tonnes of coal and not 32 lakh metric tonnes as stated in the affidavit filed before the Supreme Court,” he said.
Elaborating on the drone survey, Katakey said assistance from the NESAC may be sought to explore the possibility of satellite imagery of the coal-producing area to determine how much fossil fuel has been mined illegally.
“The profit from the sale of such coal will go to the state for the benefit of the people of Meghalaya,” he said.
“I have also emphasised the closure of the mine pits because those are causing loss of human lives and loss of livestock. Moreover, these pits are filled with water during the monsoon and children who jump in to swim may suffer because the water is highly acidic,” he said.
“The CMPDI has been asked to prepare a report and certain sites have been identified for a pilot project. There are more than 26,000 such pits in the East Jaintia Hills district itself,” he added.

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