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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Meghalaya Assembly witnesses fireworks over coal mining

The Wednesday’s session turned stormy as Leader of Opposition Dr. Mukul Sangma said the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government was not serious to start legal mining of coal as he alleged it want “illegalities” to happen because it suits their intent.

india Updated: Sep 12, 2019 14:12 IST
David Laitphlang
David Laitphlang
Hindustan Times, Shillong
Workers load coal onto a truck at a wholesaler in New Delhi, India, on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to end a four-decade-old government monopoly on mining and selling coal. Photographer: Kuni Takahashi/Bloomberg
Workers load coal onto a truck at a wholesaler in New Delhi, India, on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to end a four-decade-old government monopoly on mining and selling coal. Photographer: Kuni Takahashi/Bloomberg(Bloomberg file photo)
         

The fourth day of the Assembly’s six-day session on Wednesday saw heated exchange as the ruling National People’s Party (NPP) and opposition Congress leaders blamed each other for the delay in resumption of coal mining in the state.

The Wednesday’s session turned stormy as Leader of Opposition Dr. Mukul Sangma said the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government was not serious to start legal mining of coal as he alleged it want “illegalities” to happen because it suits their intent.

He also referred to reports carried by Assam media recently on the number of trucks dumping coal from Meghalaya and said that is why no step was taken to ensure timeline for expeditious starting of legal mining.

Asking the Leader of Opposition to not make a speech since it was the question hour, chief minister Conrad K Sangma however said the then Congress-led state government could not do anything to resolve the ban on coal mining.

“Let us compare in the last five years and let us compare in the last one and a half year (of MDA), I think we know whose intent is wanting. I want to ask what happened in the last five years, why didn’t they (Congress) move (the issue) expeditiously. When finally we have moved forward I think everybody should be happy about it,” Conrad asserted.

“It is a tough situation but then our government worked over time and today we have got a decisive victory and order from the Court saying we can go ahead with mining provided that policy and different rules are in place,” he said while terming the Supreme Court’s judgment which lifted the coal ban as victory to the people of the state.

Defending the previous government, Dr. Mukul said the affidavit submitted before the Supreme Court informing about the decision of the ministry of coal – to exempt application of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973 in as far as coal and lignite is concerned – was an offshoot of work by the Congress government and alleged, “But you (MDA government) messed it up”.

The chief minister in turn blamed the Congress for messing up with the issue and said, “The order of Ministry of Coal was given in 2015. They had the opportunity to work till 2018, three years but nothing happened so who messed it up. Did we mess it up or you have messed it up?”

The Leader of Opposition however said the ministry of coal did not work alone and that the whole stand of the government is not considered only by one ministry and asked on the reason for the failure of the present government to prevail upon the issue after affidavit was filed before the court.

The discussion on the issue almost took an hour leading to the House not being able to take up other issues during the time allotted for the question hour.

When the arguments did not stop, Deputy chief minister Prestone Tynsong stood up and requested the deputy speaker Timothy D Shira not to allow this to happen as he suggested the opposition members to bring issues considered as important in the form of special discussion.

“We are not here to break but to strengthen the rules,” Tynsong, who also ended the discussion on the coal issue by giving his reply to another question, without waiting for the go ahead from the deputy speaker.

Earlier while replying to the principal question raised by Mawphlang MLA SK Sunn, chief minister said the Supreme Court in its order passed on July 3, held that in the event mining operations are undertaken by the tribals or other owners of hills districts of Meghalaya in accordance with mining lease obtained from the state of Meghalaya as per the MMDR Act, 1957 and Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, the April 17, 2014-ban order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) shall not come in its way of carrying mining operations.

On the conditions required to be followed for coal mining to resume, Conrad said coal mining shall be allowed in the state subject to compliance of provisions of the MMDR Act, 1957, the Mines Act, 1952, Coal Mines Regulation, 2017 and the Environment (Protection) Act.

First Published: Sep 12, 2019 13:50 IST