The Leader of Opposition in Meghalaya Assembly, Dr Mukul Sangma, alleged that the state and the central governments have taken U-turn on the demand to exempt Meghalaya from all relevant sections of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulations) Act and other central laws related to mining.
Mukul Sangma, the former chief minister of Meghalaya, however, hailed the Supreme Court judgment that has entrusted the Coal India Limited as a third party to take over all extracted coal for disposal, and according to him, this would bring down illegal activities which happened right under the nose of the state government.
On Wednesday, the bench of Supreme Court comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan, and Justice K.M. Joseph in a judgment on a case related to NGT ban on coal mining in Meghalaya stated that while implementing statutory regime for carrying out mining operations in Meghalaya, the state has to ensure compliance of not only the MMDR Act, 1957 but Mines Act, 1952 as well as Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
The Supreme Court bench noted that the stand taken on behalf of the state of Meghalaya before the apex court that the NGT has no jurisdiction, cannot be approved.
Sangma also questioned the state and central government as to why they have changed their stand before the Supreme Court which led to the application of all relevant sections of the MMDR Act to the state of Meghalaya.
He recalled a proposal submitted by the previous Congress government to Centre and subsequent resolution adopted in the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly in 2015 urging the Centre to ensure that the Coal Mines (Nationalization) Act, 1973 and the MMDR Act, 1957 shall not apply in Meghalaya and the Centre can exempt Meghalaya from these laws by issuing a presidential notification under Para 12A(b) of Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
Ex-Meghalaya CM Mukul Sangma further said, “Now what will be the consequences keeping in mind the complexities and lengthy procedures that mine owners particularly small mine owners have to go through? The fallout is – middle men and benami businessmen – will prosper at the cost of our own people.”
The former CM also alleged that the present MDA government did not do its homework except to mislead the Supreme Court that more than 32 lakh metric tons of extracted coal were still lying in the mining areas in four districts which never existed “with a clear intent to thrive on by facilitating illegal coal mining.”
“Everyone interested to protect the state’s interests can find out what is happening in the coal mine areas and along the National Highways, without going by what I say,” Sangma said.
He also said that the apex court judgment should be welcomed since it will ensure that the government’s priority which has been focused in allowing illegality in the state will be completely brought under control.
Sangma also congratulated all organizations and individuals who have fought against the ban on coal mining at their own capacity with their contention that ownership over the land and minerals is with the community and local tribals.
“This was appropriately upheld by the Supreme Court and it has restored ownership over the minerals. This is the biggest achievement,” he said.