In another case that raises eyebrows, laws of the State were deliberately circumvented to allow coal transport to take place through South Garo Hills since March this year.
The revelation comes in the wake of complaints made by various local organizations that pointed out the movement of coal trucks towards the land custom port in Gasuapara in the district. The origin of the coal was apparently from Dudhnoi in Assam.
In an order dated March 25, the then Deputy Commissioner, W Nongsiej, had allowed for the export of coal through Gasuapara into Bangladesh from Dudhnoi, as per the norms laid down by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). While the order seems perfectly legal, what followed afterwards was not.
Immediately after the receipt of the order, coal trucks carrying the mineral from Nongalbibra and Jadi began to ply the various routes into Gasuapara. Some of these overenthusiastic trucks even began using routes through remote villages in what was an attempt to escape paying fees.
Activist Greneth Sangma, who is a resident of Mindikgre, was among the first to point out the illegal transport of these trucks.
“The government is manipulating these for their pockets only. How can the DC give an order without any notification from the Supreme Court or High Court? Some drivers violated the DC’s order on the prescribed route through NH-62 and tried to use the Eringgre to Karukol via Mindikgre road. We detained these trucks and informed the Officer in Charge of Baghmara and handed them over,” said Sangma.
Empty coal trucks from Assam also began to line up on NH-51 at Bajengdoba to move to Nongalbibra and beyond to take advantage of the situation. These trucks, even till the filing of this report, continue to try to enter the state.
“There has been no movement of coal from the town of Dudhnoi as any such movement would be noticed by us. Besides why would someone pay double taxes after taking the same coal from Meghalaya only to once again go back to Meghalaya? This makes no sense and also points to the extent that the government will go to cater to the demands from certain business quarters,” said Mendipathar MLA Marthon Sangma.
Meanwhile residents of the Gasuapara area also filed a police complaint over the illegal movement of coal.
In an FIR filed on April 27, John Dalton Sangma of Koinadubi, Dalu, reported that illegal export was taking place while revenue was being lost by the Meghalaya exchequer.
“The export is being undertaken by some vested interests for their personal gain. The challans they are using are duplicates and have caused huge revenue loss to the state. We have also been informed that the trucks are from Assam whereas we are all aware that the administration and exporters are lying,” said Dalton in his FIR.
The current illegal plying of coal comes close on the heels of the revelation that illegal coal trucks were moving for over six months through the Riangdo-Boko route at the behest of some higher-ups within the state government. The free for all along the route has been halted for now, though it seems only a matter of time before more attempts are made to restart the illegal trade.
In the meantime, Nongsiej, the DC of South Garo Hills, has apparently been moved on.