At a time when rescue operations are going on in an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya to rescue trapped miners, a report submitted to the Supreme Court claims involvement of the State’s top politicians in the illegal coal trade.
It may be mentioned that fifteen miners continue to be trapped inside a flooded 320-feet coal mine which collapsed 16 days ago.
However, “he is among the top coal barons of the State”, according to a Citizens’ Report prepared by civil society groups in Meghalaya, it stated.
It may be mentioned that though there has been a carpet ban by National Green Tribunal (NGT) on rat hole mining in Meghalaya since 2014, most of the parties of the State reportedly want lifting of the ban.
The report, which has been submitted to the Supreme Court, names top politicians in the State claiming their involvement in the illegal coal trade.
The report also said, in the last Assembly election, the Congress didn’t do well in the Jaintia hill region.
Their dismal performance was attributed by many to the fact that the party couldn’t challenge the coal mining ban in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and later in Supreme Court “aggressively”.
In fact, during the Assembly elections this year, the Congress was seen by the powerful coal lobby as ‘anti-mining’, although it has many top leaders who have ‘keen interest’ in coal trade which is largely unregulated, sources said.
The report claimed that about 30 per cent of the 374 candidates who contested the polls were either owners of mines or have stakes in the coal mining and transportation industry.
Coal mining was a key poll issue for the opposition which used it to turn the table on Congress.
The BJP, which is also a coalition partner of the Meghalaya Government led by Conrad Sangma, also promised it would solve the problem of illegal mining within 180 days.
According to the report submitted to the Supreme Court, though the Meghalaya CM’s family does not have any ‘direct’ links to the coal trade, but many of his ministers have link to the trade.
Social activist Agnes Kharshiing and Amita Sangma were attacked by a group of 40 people led by a coal mafia in the East Jaintia Hills district after they complained to the local police about illegal mining and transportation of coal, police said.
The list also names an MP, four ministers in the present Government and seven non-NPP legislators who are either coal barons or their families have business interests in coal mining.