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Northeast Diary: Is Meghalaya attempting to legalise rat-hole coal mining? | India Information – Occasions of India

Eight years after it was banned, the observe of rat-hole coal mining continues to be rampant in Meghalaya owing to what many see as an unholy nexus between a bit of politicians, bureaucrats and coal barons.
Rat-hole mining, a harmful observe, entails digging slender tunnels, every of which inserts just one individual to enter and extract coal. The Nationwide Inexperienced Tribunal (NGT) had imposed a ban on it in 2014, terming it as unscientific. Recurring accidents and security of miners had been amongst of the the explanation why the Tribunal prohibited the observe.
In January 2021, six staff misplaced their lives after a crane collapsed into the pit of a coal mine within the Sorkari forest. In December 2018, at the least 17 labourers died when the mine they had been working in at Ksan obtained submerged.
Earlier this yr, a court-appointed committee headed by Justice BP Katakey (retired) had submitted a hard-hitting report, saying apart from notifying the Meghalaya Minerals (Prevention of Unlawful Mining, Transportation and Storage) Guidelines, 2022 on March 24, 2022, not one of the instructions issued by the Supreme Court docket and the NGT had been complied with by the authorities involved.
Final month, the Meghalaya Excessive Court docket issued a strict order, asking the state authorities to make sure that “not an oz. of illegally-mined coal” is allowed to be transported in vans or different automobiles. It additionally directed the chief secretary and the state police chief to not bow all the way down to any “political interference” whereas implementing the ban.
Peeved on the authorities’s failure, the courtroom noticed that “rampant unlawful mining of coal continues regardless of orders of this courtroom courting again…to March of this yr”.
So, the query is – why is it so troublesome to implement the ban? Previous to the 2014 ban, the coal mining business was among the many greatest income earners for the state, producing about Rs 700 crore yearly, in line with authorities studies cited in media studies.
“The cash from the coal introduced a brand new degree of prosperity to the lives of coal mine homeowners and plenty of of them turned crorepatis, and most of them at the moment are contractors, politicians…” Baniateilang Majaw, who teaches at Division of Political Science, Seng Khasi School, Shillong, wrote for Financial and Political Weekly.
“The tribal land system in Meghalaya is especially neighborhood owned or privately owned and the landowners have absolute proper over assets each on and under the land. Owing to the state authorities’s assist, bureaucrats and politicians, regardless of their political affiliations have benefited from rat-hole mining,” in line with the article.
With Meghalaya meeting elections only a few months away, the problem of coal mining is again within the limelight. Rajya Sabha member from the state, WR Kharlukhi, is now demanding that rat-hole mining be legalised. “Why ought to my folks undergo for the sake of failure of a coverage someplace?” he informed reporters earlier this week.
“There are occasions after we ought to see what’s extra beneficial — human lives or different considerations. If you happen to say that human life will not be beneficial, then okay. Or if you happen to really feel that we tribals will not be beneficial, then okay. However do not hold our folks hanging like this,” he mentioned.
He claimed that the Conrad Sangma authorities was attempting its degree greatest to get the ban lifted via authorized means.
“For 40 years, rat-hole mining was allowed and solely now they realised that it’s dangerous. Did they not know that rat-hole mining was occurring in Meghalaya? I see persons are made to undergo for no fault of theirs,” he mentioned.
The federal government ought to do a examine to evaluate whether or not open-cast mining is possible within the state, the lawmaker from the state’s ruling Nationwide Folks’s Celebration (NPP) urged. It’s but to be seen if the NPP makes it a significant problem forward of the meeting polls.

With inputs from companies

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