Citizens' report urges halt on coal mining in Meghalaya

Updated on : Jan 14,2019   12:10 am

Shillong, Jan 14 (IANS) A group of social activists on Sunday released two volumes of a citizens' report urging the Supreme Court that coal mining in Meghalaya be stopped completely and other forms of energy, which are climate-friendly but need investment, be promoted.

The two-volume report released by social activists Agnes Kharshing, Amita Sangma, Angela Rangad, Michael N. Syiem and others has been submitted to the Supreme Court with a plea to consider it for hearing.

The submission of the reports is significant in the wake of 15 miners being trapped in an illegal flooded coal mine in East Jaintia Hills districts for a month now, besides the murderous attacks on social activists Kharshiing and Sangma.

The first volume of the citizens' report examines the claims about livelihood and tribal autonomy vis-a-vis coal mining. It looks at how and why unregulated and illegal coal mining in Meghalaya continues even after the orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Supreme Court of India.

The second volume puts together these reports in the backdrop of the murderous attack on Kharshiing and Sangma by the "coal mafia (coal mine owners that include five public representatives, bureaucrats, administration and police officials) and leaders of self-styled non-state social groups and 'NGOs' and the total state apathy towards these attacks".

Based on many existing peer-reviewed research papers, news reports, publicly available government documents, audit reports and civil society experiences, the report demanded that coal mining in Meghalaya be stopped completely and other forms of energy and livelihood that are climate-friendly but need investment be given a push.

The report urged the apex court to act against against the coal mafias who are undermining and misleading the democratic institutions such as the NGT and the courts.

"All transportation orders be rescinded and no further transportation of coal be permitted. Any coal awaiting transportation should be taken over by the government and used for public sector undertakings," the report noted

Urging the court to initiate a CBI inquiry into the attack on Kharshiing and Sangma, the report said: "Legal action be taken against all the people, including government officials, who are responsible for the loss of revenue of the government as named in the Comptroller Auditor General's reports."

"There is a need to freeze all land registrations in and around the mining areas... The court has to uphold NGT ruling on ban till proper regulatory framework on prospecting, granting of leases, granting of necessary clearances, environmentally-sustainable mining, mine reclamation, land laws and labour laws are in place," the report said.

It noted that Indian Space Research Organisation and North East Space Application Centre should be directed to maintain real-time maps in the three states of Meghalaya, Assam and Nagaland through Global Positioning System to monitor the trucks, performance of police, mining and transport departments to ensure transparency and tax compliance.

Noting that despite an interim NGT ban on coal mining since April 2014, the report said that fresh mining of coal has continued and illegal transportation of coal also continued as usual.

"The state government must develop and host in the public domain an end-to-end, transaction-based management information system that enables suo motu disclosure (as mandated under Section 4, Right to Information Act) of leases granted, mining lease documents, environment clearances, forest clearances, pollution control board clearances, royalties paid, quantum of mineral extracted and royalty paid," the report stated.

--IANS

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