NGT ban: Congress leaders knock at Prez’s door

From Our Special Correspondent

MPCC chief DD Lapang hands over a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee opposing NGT ban on rat-hole coal mining in Meghalaya on Thursday at New Delhi. Other present on the occasion are Vincent Pala, Prestone Tynsong, H D R Lyngdoh and M M Danggo

New Delhi: Congress leaders from Meghalaya on Thursday met President Pranab Mukherjee here to seek his immediate intervention over the NGT’s ban on rat-hole coal mining in the state.

“The ban on coal mining in Meghalaya by the National Green Tribunal has completely devastated the traditional and customary mining activities of the tribals in that State,” the leaders said in the memorandum submitted in this regard to the President .

The memorandum was presented by Shillong MP Vincent H Pala, MPCC president DD Lapang, State Cabinet Ministers- Prestone Tynsong, H D R Lyngdoh and former Speaker M M Danggo in the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

“The President gave us a patient hearing and assured us to look into the matter,” Pala told The Shillong Times after the meeting.

The leaders urged the President to invoke 12A (b) of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution so that application of Central laws relating to mining can be rescinded through a Presidential notification. This will enable the state government to regulate mining activities in accordance with Meghalaya Mines and Minerals Policy, 2012.

The paragraph 12 (A) relates to application of Acts of Parliament and of the Legislature of the State of Meghalaya to autonomous districts and autonomous regions in the State of Meghalaya. The paragraph 12A(b) deals with President’s power to exempt application of any Union law to an autonomous district or an autonomous region in the State of Meghalaya.

On Friday, the tribunal upheld its ban on coal mining in Meghalaya, contending that right to life was far more significant than economic interest and the latter cannot be allowed to gain preference.

“The ban has crippled the lives of lakhs of tribal people in Meghalaya, but has also thrown out of gear large segments of migrant population, who worked in these mines. Some families have even started selling their children due to distress,” the memorandum said.

“The leaders also pointed out that the Supreme Court had banned timber in 1986 and now coal mining has also been banned. The continuous ban on activities dependent upon natural resources in the North Region has caused serious economic destitution amongst the tribals in the region thereby aggravating the region’s underdevelopment,” they said.

The only way to protect the traditional and customary economic engagements of the tribals of Meghalaya is to have recourse to paragraph 12A(b) of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India, the memorandum stressed.

The NGT has banned coal mining because a case was presented before the tribunal by the All Dimasa Students’ Union and the Dima Hasao District Committee that coal mines in Jaintia Hills is polluting River Kopili with acidic discharge.