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Loss of three lives, Rs 600 crore

NGT ban on rat hole mining of coal completes one year today

SHILLONG: A year of  the interim ban on rat hole coal mining by NGT saw three  deaths , a series of violations of the order and subsequent arrests of drivers of trucks  coupled with loss to the state’ exchequer  to the tune of Rs 600 crore.
Though the next hearing of the NGT was fixed on April 21 in Shillong, it has been postponed to April 30 in Delhi.
It was on April 17 last year that the NGT imposed a sudden ban on the extraction and transportation of already extracted coal thereby bringing to halt large scale unscientific mining.
On September 24 last year, two villagers including a woman were killed and six injured at Mookhep village in East Jaintia Hills in police firing when a mob blocked the National Highway in protest against the arrest of a person from Wapungskur village in connection with the attack on police and the magistrates during the economic blockade against the failure of State Government to address the issues following the ban on coal mining.
After the Government was not satisfied with a magisterial inquiry, the Government recently instituted an administrative inquiry to probe the incident.
Again in a related incident, on January 24 night this year, Sub Inspector  P J Marbaniang, the officer  in charge of Patharkhmah police outpost died mysteriously after he detained 32 trucks carrying coal illegally to Assam.
An inquiry on the matter was taken up by the Special Investigation Team.
Despite the ban, violations still continue in parts of Jaintia Hills.
After  the  Principal Bench of NGT in Delhi  warned action against police personnel during a hearing  on March 20, the Additional DGP  YC Modi who was present collapsed in the Tribunal premises, which prompted the green court to postpone the hearing.
The intention of NGT was aimed at environment protection, but the end result will be visible only once there is adherence to complete ban as already there are reports of fresh extraction of coal in parts of State.
When contacted on the enforcement of law, the Meghalaya DGP  Rajiv Mehta on Thursday said that the police are making best efforts to take action against the violators of NGT ban. “We are acting with available resources with us”, Mehta said.
A coal baron who did not wish to be quoted said that sufficient time should have been given before the NGT resorted to ban on coal mining.
“The ban came like a bolt from the blue. And we were not prepared for it. If sufficient deadline of six  months  or one year would have been given to us to make corrective steps before banning , this would have been ideal”, he said.
He further added that the economy of the state was affected due to the sudden ban and it is not only the State Government which is facing financial hardships, but also the villagers in and around mining sites, workers, coal dealers and owners who directly or indirectly depend on coal mining activities.
Besides the loss of revenue, the Government, the coal dealers and owners who have filed appeals against the NGT ban are spending crores of rupees for the lawyers.
A legal expert from the state said those affected due to the NGT ban for the last one year should have been provided with some rehabilitation package.
Moreover, sufficient time for those who depend on coal mining activities should have been given by the NGT before imposing ban on coal mining as it has affected their livelihood and economic activities.
“With the revenue loss of Rs 600 crore, the circulation of money has been affected due to the NGT ban”, he said.
As a solution, the legal expert pointed out that in the long run, the miners will have to obtain license under the Mines and Minerals Development and  Regulation  Act , 1957 to carry out mining legally and scientifically .
Moreover a mining plan by the State Government as agreed  upon by the Centre  will ensure that the NGT withdraws the ban.
The mining plan is aimed at restoration of water bodies, checking air pollution while mining and adoption of proper safeguards for the protection of environment and the workers.
The legal expert further pointed out that even the exemption of traditional mining practices from the purview of the ban will not bring out any desired result as NGT and Supreme Court will insist proper regulation to ensure safety of environment and human beings.
Status of Mining  Plan:      Mining scheme is under preparation after State Government submitted the proposal to the Secretary, Ministry of Coal  and to the Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests on July 23,2014
Ministry of Coal constituted  Expert Group led by the Central Mine Planning & Design Institute Ltd to prepare broad guidelines for the mining of coal.

A year of NGT ban at a glance

Total tonnage of coal transported within grace period after NGT ban:  11, 56,743 metric tones
Total royalty collected by the Government :  Over Rs 132. 25 crore  
Total quantum of coal extracted assessed: 87, 13,103,221 metric tonne
Coal assessed and lying in various depots: 75,56,360.221 metric tonne      
Money realized by way of fine from illegal coal trucks: Rs 6,97,50,050  

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