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Coal mining and crime synonymous

The State Government has been making a mockery of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on coal mining which is now reiterated by the Supreme Court ruling banning coal from being transported out of Meghalaya. The incident on Monday evening where a coal truck capsized and killed four people who are probably labourers engaged in the coal trade, is a case in point. Anyone who travels on the Shillong-Guwahati highway in the early morning hours will find coal trucks by the dozens parked by the roadside along Byrnihat up until Jorabat. They are parked close to Jorabat possibly to find the appropriate moment to cross the state’s borders. Connivance between the Meghalaya and Assam Police to allow smooth passage of coal trucks cannot be ruled out. Without the abetment of the police so many coal trucks could not have come from different parts of the state and travel via Assam. On this score alone the MDA Government must be held solely accountable for completely failing to maintain law and order; nay in the abetment of what can be called ‘blatant’ contempt of the Supreme Court’s repeated orders to ban the movement of coal until certain matters are set to rest.

The problem with the apex court’s order is that it is expected to be implemented in letter and spirit by the State Government. Hence the Court has not set up an oversight body to keep watch over this illegality. But when the State and its organs of governance are interested parties in the coal mining business and are facilitating this wrongdoing then who will call out this violation of the Court’s order except the media. The problem today is that any attempt to blow the whistle on illegal coal mining is fraught with personal dangers for journalists. Attempts to record the movement of coal trucks on camera or to ask intrusive questions would invite the wrath of the coal mafia. Journalists are the most vulnerable group of people in a state where the mafia rule the roost.

The statement made a bystander that those at the accident site were chased away and that none other than a senior police official claimed that pictures of the accident were not allowed to be taken and that the dead bodies were hidden and only found a day later is an indictment on the district administration. This is what happens when venality becomes the hallmark of any government. With elections approaching, the illegal transportation of coal would only surge while Government looks the other way.

Meghalaya has the makings of a rogue state today.

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