Challans meant for the transportation of recently-auctioned coal from East Jaiñtia Hills are being resold on the black market, netting lakhs of ill-gotten rupees for the sellers, the youth wing of the Jaiñtia Coal Miners and Dealers Association said in a letter to Chief Secretary MS Rao today.
This was just one of the issues documented in the letter, signed by Defender Pakam and Heading Sutnga, about illegal goings-on in the coal trade.
In the covering letter to the press, the association said that illegal transportation is being carried out “in connivance with the people in power. We are sure the government will rubbish our contention about the existence of illegal transportation of coal, but its existence cannot be denied.”
While the livelihoods of the daily wage labourer and small coal businessmen are being affected by the ban on rat-hole mining in Meghalaya, Pakam and Sutnga said, a “handful of people” are richly profiting from the current state of affairs, and these could include “people in the government”.
People in power would have to be involved, they added, because it would otherwise be impossible to illegally transport coal from within Meghalaya to Assam because there are, for example, nine police checkpoints, four weighbridges, two Directorate of Mineral Resources checkpoints, two district council checkpoints, a Transport Department checkpoint and several belonging to the Forest Department in Jaiñtia Hills alone.
“As such there is a strong possibility that there is a connivance of (the authorities) at these checkpoints in matters relating to illegal transportation of coal with the illegal coal traders,” the letter to the Chief Secretary claimed.
The pair also said that a coal trader who wants to move coal illicitly has to shell out around Rs 1 lakh to get his cargo into Assam. “We are particularly concerned about reports that even trucks carrying coal illegally that have been apprehended are being let off after paying a certain sum of money,” they added.
The signatories also expressed concern about what they said is a delay in auctioning 2 lakh tonnes of coal that has been approved by Coal India Ltd for sale.
Illegal transport has cost the state exchequer in lost taxes and the practice needs to be stopped forthwith, Pakam and Sutnga stated.
“Police should not turn a blind eye towards such illegal acts which have the potential to affect the economic health of the state,” they said. “It pains us to say that there is a handful of people who do not want coal mining to resume and want this illegal business to flourish and, as such, we pray to the government of Meghalaya to take all possible steps to resume coal mining in the state in line with the laws laid down by the government.”