Leader of the Opposition, Dr Mukul Sangma, today visited the site of the coal depot where district authorities apparently auctioned coal in January. After a visit to the site, the former CM lambasted the state authorities over what he alleged was nexus to support illegal coal mining and transportation.
The site of the coal dump, which has remained unclaimed, is in Nengkra Agalgre, around 17 kilometres from the district headquarters of Williamnagar in East Garo Hills.
Dr Sangma was accompanied on his visit by Congress MLA WD Sangma as well as former MLAs Sengnam Marak and Francis Pondit Sangma. The highly publicized visit also saw the presence of the Deputy Commissioner, Swapnil Tembe, and the district’s mining officer (DMO).
As per the reports of the DMO, who had provided the estimates of coal at the site, an amount of over 34,000 tonnes was supposed to have been auctioned. The coal has not been moved due to the High Court of Meghalaya putting a stop to coal transport until further orders.
However the former CM, after the inspection, stated that not more than 5,000 tonnes was at the site and this showed how illegal mining and transportation was taking place despite the Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma claiming otherwise.
“This only means that either the coal has already been transported or the coal was never there. This shows that there is active connivance between all parties involved in this illegality and there may have been an attempt to escape paying royalties,” said Dr Sangma.
The former CM also met owners of land where the coal has been dumped and, while questioning them, found that they were aware of the owners of the coal.
“How can they say that the coal is unclaimed? These three land owners have already identified the owners of the coal. Apparently when the entire seizure was being done, these people were ordered not to come out of their houses and talk,” he added.
The opposition leader further questioned the route decided for the transport, which, as per the challans issued, was to move through Nongstoin, Shillong and Guwahati whereas the normal route was through Dainadubi in North Garo Hills into Assam.
Dr Sangma stated that he will take up the matter of illegal coal transport and mining and a letter to the Chief Secretary would be sent.
“We cannot allow this to happen. We have built the state and set new benchmarks in good governance. We will seek ways to counter this illegality,” he stated.
Hitting out at the CM over the latter’s denial that there is illegal coal mining in the state, Dr Sangma said that repeated denials were being made by the CM despite people trying to bring this issue to the attention of the government.
“We have seen the response of the government and this has even been discussed in the august house (State Assembly). There has hardly been any attempt to verify the substance behind the allegations. They just continue stonewalling,” he added. “There is a need to send a strong message. Otherwise people who are involved in this illegality are becoming emboldened, mainly because of the patronage of people in authority.”