Government offers to rehabilitate militants

Chief Minister Mukul Sangma inspects the parade during the 68th Independence Day celebrations at Polo Grounds in the city on Friday. (ST)

Mining ban: CM seeks NE states’ help in securing exemption

SHILLONG: The State Government has said that it would rehabilitate militants who decide to come overground instead of calling them for talks on their various demands.
Addressing the gathering during the Independence Day celebrations here on Friday, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said, “I call upon all the misguided youths who are waging war against the nation and our own people to realize the futility of violence and take advantage of Government’s offer to come overground and avail the rehabilitation package which includes counseling, handholding and sustainable livelihood.”
He also urged all  citizens, leaders, civil society and religious activists to join him in reaching out to the “misguided youths” and facilitate them in joining the mainstream.
Earlier, the Centre had also made it clear that there would be no talks with the militants, but they can come overground.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister also informed that he has sought the help of other Northeastern states to get exemption from the Centre for carrying out mining of coal.
The Chief Minister, while addressing the gathering during the Independence Day celebrations said that the Centre should grant exception to Meghalaya under 12 A (b) of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to carry out coal mining.
“The Meghalaya Government will take on board other State Governments of the North East in taking up the issue concertedly with the Government of India, so that the provision of Paragraph 12 A (b) of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution is upheld in letter and spirit,” the Chief Minister said.
Sangma said that the State Government has been actively engaged in dealing with the fallout of the ban on rat hole coal mining in the State and coal transportation thereof  by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
“Our indigenous tribal land owners have been carrying out coal mining activities as per the customary rights and practices. As such, when Meghalaya was created, the then State Government had requested the Central Government that the customary rights and practices followed for coal mining in the State thus far should not be disturbed,” the Chief Minister said.
He also said that in the past, the Centre has been responsive to the request of the State Government and indicated that they would not like to take any step to disturb the rights of the indigenous people of Meghalaya in respect of customary rights and practices for coal mining which can be regulated by the State to meet the environmental and safety requirements.
The Chief Minister said that in order to meet the  requirements of various statutory laws and appropriately regulate  the coal mining activities, the State Government, after exhaustive  engagement with the stakeholders, has framed  measures to facilitate systematic and scientific utilisation of the mineral resources and notified the Meghalaya Mines and Mineral Policy, 2012.
“However, certain provisions of the Central laws such as Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957, the Coal Mines (Nationalization) 1973 and others  came in the way of implementation of the Policy,” the Chief Minister said.
Sangma said the State Government had taken up the issue, in order to protect the interests of indigenous people, with the then Prime Minister in May, 2014 and again with the present Prime Minister in July, 2014 impressing upon the need to invoke paragraph 12 A (b) of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution so that application of the Central laws relating to mining may be rescinded through Presidential notification.
“This will empower the State Legislature to legislate appropriate laws in order to regulate mining in the State while Central laws relating to environment, forests, child labour, mine safety, and others will  continue to apply. We firmly believe that this is the only way to restore the customary rights and practices of our indigenous tribes in relation to coal mining which have been taken away by the  Central Laws particularly the Coal Mines (Nationalization) Act, 1973,” the Chief Minister said.
He said necessary measures to comply with the directives of the NGT have been taken by the State Government so as to enable lifting of the ban on both transportation of the extracted coal and coal mining in the State.
He added that as per the order of the NGT, the State Government had submitted the Mining Plan, Health Plan among others to the relevant Union Ministry and it is expected to give interim relief to all the mine owners and those associated with coal mining activities.
According to the Chief Minister, in order to restore the customary rights of the local people, invoking of paragraph 12 A (b) of the Sixth  Schedule of the Constitution needs to be aggressively followed up with the Centre.