Hundreds of people in coal-rich areas of East Jaintia Hills district staged a protest by defying the nationwide lockdown on Wednesday to oppose the Meghalaya government’s decision to allow cement plants to bring coal from outside.
There has been strong opposition against the state government’s decision to import coal from Assam to feed the cement plants.
More than 12 groups of people including coal miners and dealers’ associations and traditional institutions took to the streets at Lad Jaliyiah area after the government refused to withdraw its order of allowing the transportation of coal from Assam.
The State Coordination Committee of Coal Owners, Miners, Exporters, Transporters & Dealer’s Forum has also expressed strong resentment against the government for issuing an order permitting coal-laden trucks to ply from Assam to cement plants in East Jaintia Hills that too from Assam, a COVID19 hotspot in the Northeast.
“It is indeed shocking and condemnable. In light of the above-mentioned, the Forum urges upon the State Government to put on hold the permitted order to allow coal-laden trucks to cater to the requirement of the cement companies in East Jaiñtia Hills,” M. Kharkongor, secretary of the Forum said in the letter.
The Forum submitted the letter to Meghalaya chief minister Conrad K. Sangma.
Kharkongor said the Forum would rather insist on the state government to put in more efforts to obtain the ‘go-ahead’ direction for starting the process of auctioning the 32 lakh metric tons of extracted coal as claimed by the state government in the sworn-in affidavit before the Supreme Court in June last year.
“Out of the 32 lakhs metric tons, the NGT has permitted in March this year, 2 lakhs metric tons for transportation and the State Government should utilize the said extracted coal instead of importing coal from outside the state,” said Kharkongor.
“The Forum strongly endorses to support the NGOs in East Jaintia Hills that opposed importing of coal from outside the state,” Kharkongor said.
Synjuk Waheh Shnong, East Jaintia Hills district, Satly Ryngkhlem said the people of East Jaintia were forced to take to the streets to protest against the government’s decision to allow transportation of coal from Assam in view of the COVID19 pandemic.
Ryngkhlem said the traditional institutions, pressure groups and coal miners and dealers’ association in the district have now given a four-day ultimatum to the Meghalaya government to reverse its order, failing which, “we have no other option to cooperate with it to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.”
However, the chief minister maintained that the decision of the state government to allow transportation of coal from outside was due to a “matter of legality”.
Maintaining that the government’s decision to allow transportation of coal from outside was due to a “matter of legality”, chief minister Sangma said the government is trying to resolve it even as he appealed to the stakeholders in East Jaintia Hills district to understand the current situation.
“Their concerns are there their emotions are there the fact that the coal is coming from outside we have our limitations because of the legal challenges that we face,” Sangma told reporters.
Sangma informed that at this point in time the government is trying to resolve it even as he appealed to the stakeholders in East Jaintia Hills to understand the current situation.
On the 2 lakh metric tons of coal identified by the Coal India Limited for auctioning, the chief minister said he had a discussion with Union coal minister Piyush Goyal about 10 days back and also wrote a letter to him.
“After his intervention, the permission was given (for auctioning) and now it is the process and I hope so very soon maybe I should say a week or ten days time necessary expressions will be floated,” Sangma said.