Shillong: Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma on Wednesday informed the House that the Supreme Court has lifted the ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on coal mining in the State.
“We were committed to lifting the NGT ban, and within one year and three months, we were able to lift the ban. Coal mining is no longer banned. The Supreme Court has lifted the ban,” Sangma said in the course of his reply to the discussion on the Governor’s Address.
He said the Central Government has also given its approval to the Meghalaya Government to issue mining lease to the private miners.
“It is for the first time in India, that mining leases were auctioned out by the Government of India but now, through SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) finalised, private mines can be leased out,” he informed the assembly.
“Land and minerals belong to the people and this was recognised by the Government of India. This SOP will enable us to shorten the process of getting the license. The entire process will be streamlined with this SOP. It will open the gate for legal mining in the state,” the Chief Minister further informed.
In this regard, he said 20 people have applied for prospecting licenses. “We have opened the gate for scientific and legal mining in the state,” he added.
The Chief Minister said Standard Operating Procedures have been framed to start scientific and legal coal mining in the state as per the direction of the Supreme Court.
“Some of clauses in the newly drafted SOP, have been accepted by the central government. Now the state government can allow the prospecting without going to the Centre for approval. The prospecting can be done by the local agencies in the state,” Sangma said.
Furthermore, the Chief Minister also informed that the process to auction the extracted coal in the state by Coal India Limited has started and the first tranche of 5400 metric ton in East Jaintia Hills has been put up for auction in the past few days.
“The auction is in an advanced stage and the bidding process would continue for the next 14 days,” he said, adding that the next tranche of extracted coal of 9000 metric ton in South Garo Hills District.
Moreover, local miners would be getting a better price as the reserved price for the extracted coal has been put at Rs 4800 per metric ton.
” This price is double the price that local miners used to get which was about Rs. 1500-2800 per metric ton. This would encourage local miners,” he added.
Brushing aside the opposition Congress’ allegation of illegal coal mining in the state, the Chief Minister said, “There seems to be a sense of negative look towards coal mining and industry in the state. This must change. This industry has been providing a livelihood to many people for decades.”
“In the last few years, whatever movement has taken place was done legally. Almost 3 lakh MT of coal has been auctioned and brought Rs 70 crore revenue to the state. 250 cases booked for illegal activities relating to coal mining. The MMDR Act was made applicable last year against those involved in illegal activities in coal mining,” he asserted
Blaming the previous Congress government for the financial mess in the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council, the Chief Minister said, the party “arbitrarily” employed people in the council.
Due to the arbitrary decision, the expenditure in the salary component increased substantially from Rs.1400 crore to over Rs. 2000 crore.
However, the council staff strength was streamlined after the National People’s Party came to power and now the salary of the staff has been reduced to Rs. 1600 crore with 700 “ghost employees” now out of the council.
Touching on the law and order situation, he said, that the situation is now better with militancy under control.
Stating that the law and order situation has always remained dynamic with stray incidences of violence reported, Sangma, however, assured the house the government would take firm action against violators.
“Nobody is above the law. We won’t allow the laws to be broken,” the Chief Minister stated.