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State to have revised SOP for transportation of coal

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A foolproof standard operating procedure is being prepared to counter the transportation of illegally mined coal passed off as coal procured from outside the state: Justice (retd) BP Katakey

By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, June 28: Justice (retired) BP Katakey, who heads the one-member committee constituted by the High Court of Meghalaya, on Friday said a revised, foolproof standard operating procedure (SOP) is being prepared to counter the transportation of illegally mined coal passed off as coal procured from outside the state.
“There are lots of allegations in the print and electronic media relating to the transportation of coal through Meghalaya to Bangladesh particularly. Allegations are that in the name of coal from outside, they are transporting local coal mined illegally. I want to stop that,” he said after chairing a meeting at the state secretariat.
“I am on the job of completing the verification. I want to make a foolproof SOP for that (coal transportation) under the rules framed by the state government in 2022,” he said.
Justice Katakey said the stakeholders have been asked to submit their views in writing by next Monday. Thereafter, a decision would be taken to revise an earlier SOP and notify a fresh one.
He said the views from the operators of the cement factories, ferroalloy plants, and coke oven factories on the SOP relating to the transportation of coal originating from outside the state have also been taken.
He said Friday’s meeting was a continuation of earlier meetings relating to the implementation of various directives of the National Green Tribunal, the Supreme Court, and the High Court of Meghalaya.
“At least, we could achieve one objective of shifting the entire available inventoried coal to the designated depot barring one claim in respect of South West Khasi Hills district,” Justice Katakey said.
He said some people are now coming and claiming that their coal was in the inventoried list submitted to the Supreme Court.
“We are taking up that issue. Let me verify because there was a physical inspection conducted in 2022 by the Deputy Commissioner concerned about the availability of that coal. We will also try to find out the reason why the drone survey did not cover it at all,” he added.
“I also got information from the concerned DCs today about the availability of a little more than 5 lakh metric tonnes of inventoried coal in the designated depot. I have asked the government to initiate the process for auction through CIL as directed by the Supreme Court and that process will be initiated now,” he further said.
Justice Katakey said the coal put to auction in the latter part of 2023 and the early part of 2024 could not be lifted. The government gave them more time to lift after the reasons cited included a poor market due to the monsoon.
“I have requested the government to impose demurrage because these depots are set up on private land. The government has to pay rent to the landowners. The government has to employ persons to protect that coal or the designated depot because the Supreme Court says that the government is the custodian of the inventoried coal,” he said.
“If it is so, it is the government’s responsibility to protect. So, therefore, if I am the actual purchaser and if I do not lift the coal within the allowed time, it means I am keeping my coal in the government’s custody and the government is spending money to protect my coal that should not be allowed. I said, calculate the demurrage charge based on the number of people you have engaged and based on the rent of a particular depot,” he added.
“Different depots may have different areas and different rents to be paid. So, based on that, they will be charged demurrage. They will be allowed to keep their coal for a longer time than permitted subject to the payment of demurrage,” Justice Katakey said.

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