Meghalaya: Committee holds first meeting on coal mine-related issues
The committee held its first meeting on Wednesday

Shillong: The committee on coal mine-related issues headed by Justice (retired) BP Katakey held its first meeting with concerned officials on Wednesday and finalised a revised comprehensive plan for the transportation and auctioning of coal, which will be notified by the state government soon.

The Meghalaya HC had earlier appointed Justice Katakey as head of the committee set up to recommend the state government on measures over coal-related issues and to also look into the state’s non-implementation of the directions of the Supreme Court as well as the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on illegal coal mining. The committee will also have to file a preliminary report.

In its meeting held in Shillong, Katakey decided that the first step would be to ascertain the exact quantity of extracted coal in the state before the 2014 NGT ban was imposed. 

“The state government mentioned that the extracted coal is more than 32 lakh metric tonnes. While formulating the policy on transportation or auction, we must know the quantity of coal to be transported from one place to another and how much time it will require and thereafter, how much time will it take to auction it,” said Katakey.

He mentioned that the few salient features of the formulated policy would include how the transportation of coal is to be carried out, how challans will be prepared, and what features would be there in the challan.

Due to various allegations of the reuse of challans, the committee has formulated a policy to cancel the challans once utilised. The name of the driver will also be be featured in the challans. Every truck will have GPS so that it can be tracked. Each truck must ply on a designated route till the border, except those transporting coal permitted to be sold within the state. 

Apart from the registration of the vehicle, name of the owner and driver, the route by which the truck will ply has to be mentioned, Katakey told reporters. 

It maybe mentioned that when the NGT imposed a ban on rat-hole coal mining, Meghalaya had a total coal reserve of 640 million tonnes, largely mined unscientifically by individuals and communities. Coal extracted until the ban and lying in the open was estimated to be 6.4 million tonnes. 

“I’m in the process to ascertain the quantity of coal in two districts. The assessment of the quantity of coal extracted before the NGT ban is almost completed. The two districts are South West Khasi Hills and South West Garo Hills District,” said Justice Katakey.

In East Jaintia Hills, a major coal-producing district, almost 50 per cent could be assessed and the rest is yet to be done. The Deputy Commissioner of East Jaintia Hills has assured that the assessment will be carried out by October 14.

The Supreme Court had passed an order allowing coal mining operations in the state subject to compliance with the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, and permission granted by the landowners.

The apex court had directed the Meghalaya government to pay a penalty of Rs 100 crore as imposed by the NGT. The government was directed to pay the fine with money already collected from illegal miners and transporters of illegally-mined coal as penalties.

It maybe mentioned that the Meghalaya HC had earlier this year ordered an inquiry into the alleged illegal coal mining and transportation in the state after hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the issue.

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