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Lawlessness looms large in Meghalaya

THE National Green Tribunal ban on coal mining since August 2014 has unleashed a climate of economic uncertainty in Meghalaya. First, the Chief Minister makes a public statement that the exchequer is down by approximately Rs 600 crore due to loss of revenue from the coal trade particularly to Bangladesh whose annual imports from Meghalaya is to the tune of 5000-6000 metric tonnes. The brick kilns of Bangladesh have had to be shut down after the coal trade came to a standstill. In September 2014 the NGT ruled that the quantum of coal which has been extracted and is lying over-ground would be assessed by a Committee appointed by the Tribunal and the extracted coal would be allowed for transportation. Following  this order and the Committee’s stock taking the coal trade resumed but in the absence of any supervision, coal mine owners began to mine coal afresh and transport it illegally.  The Shillong-Guwahati highway which had become a freeway after the coal ban is now creating fresh problems as one half of the four-lane road is occupied by thousands of trucks daily.
On January 24 last a police sub-inspector was allegedly shot from behind in Ri Bhoi district. It is believed that he was killed because he had prevented some 32 trucks from moving to their destination since they did not have the paper clearances. The cop had informed his family that he was under much pressure to release the trucks. But hardly had he communicated that concern when he was done to death. On February 1, the truck drivers who had allegedly been held back for several hours at the weighbridge queue at Umling, Ri Bhoi district lost their patience and burnt up the Sales Tax office, the office of the Directorate of Mineral Resources (DMR) and the weighbridge as well, thereby causing complete chaos.
The ban on coal mining has created a state of lawlessness in Meghalaya. Increasingly the Government is looking incompetent and incapable of reining in the coal mafia. How this imbroglio will pan out in the days to come remains to be seen but the Government of Meghalaya has to get a grip on the law and order situation.

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