Thousands take part in silent protest rally in city
SHILLONG: Thousands of people affected by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on rat hole mining of coal took to the streets on Wednesday demanding withdrawal of the restriction.
The protestors also demanded withdrawal of NGT’s jurisdiction from Meghalaya since “the State falls under Sixth Schedule.”
The protest march was organised by the Movement for Indigenous People’s Rights and Livelihoods (MIPRL).
The rally was held two days before the NGT’s special circuit bench, eastern zone is scheduled to hold its next hearing here to decide on continuing with the ban or withdrawing it.
People carried black flags and placards reading ‘Is aquatic life in rivers more precious than human lives for the NGT’ and ‘We demand our rights to life.’
The UDP legislator T Chyne and traditional heads also took part in the silent protest march to show their solidarity against NGT ban.
MIPRLM said it would draw the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the matter.
Addressing a meeting at Polo, MIPRLM vice-chairman Erwin K Sutnga said the livelihood of lakhs of people have been taken away by the NGT order.
Chyne, while addressing the gathering, asserted that the “protest will be intensified if the need arises”.
“It is better to get arrested than to die of starvation or to indulge in criminal activities for survival,” he said while urging people to put pressure on their MLAs and MDCs to come forward and demand immediate withdrawal of NGT ban.
Later, Sutnga told reporters that they would meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi shortly to demand withdrawal of NGT’s jurisdiction from Meghalaya as the State falls under the sixth schedule of the Constitution.
Sutnga said, “Time has come for the Centre and state government to understand the plight of the people as the NGT Act was passed in 2010 without taking the Meghalaya government and the autonomous district councils into consideration.”
The NGT has banned coal mining in Meghalaya after a petition was filed by organisation based in Assam that the unscientific rat-hole coal mines of Meghalaya were polluting the environment. The NGT banned the coal mining activities and later allowed disposal of the extracted coal with strict government control.
The tribunal further ordered that the State government must set some fund aside – from the royalty received from coal mining – and use it for land reclamation project, which were previously coal mining areas.