Yet more coal-related goings on with the potential for a scam has come to the fore with members of the public questioning the state government’s account that more than 50,000 tonnes of coal was unearthed during the work on the Lailad (Borsora) to Nongjri road, fearing that the truth is that illegally mined coal has been given a cloak of legitimacy.
Countering the government line, locals of the area have stated categorically that not a single “belcha”, spade, of coal was dug up on the stretch of road.
On October 7, the government issued a notification (No/DMR/R/A/3198/2020) that 53,224 tonnes of coal, which, ostensibly, happened to be extracted while digging went on for a two-lane road from Lailad (Borsora) to Nongjri in Ranikor Sub-Division, was auctioned off by the Additional Deputy Commissioner. Against this 600 mineral transport challans of 12 tonnes each was handed over to the successful bidder to transport the coal. The winning bidder has been given permission to transport 50 per cent of the coal after royalties and cess are paid.
However, agitated sources told Highland Post that this is a conspiracy hatched to enable the transport and sale of illegal coal that had been mined in nearby areas and passed off as coal dug up in the course of the road project, which would make it legal.
Rat hole mining has continued unabated, despite the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on the practice. The Supreme Court last year had also ruled that mining can take place only if the requirements of the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act 1957 are met.
The sources have alleged that the government has conveniently used a section of the law that allows for the sale of coal or boulders dug up while working on a legitimately sanctioned road project or on agricultural land.
“With the challans based on this non-existent coal, the government plans to transport the illegally dug up coal in the surrounding areas,” said a local source, who claimed that rat-hole mining was being carried out in the surrounding countryside.
“Box-cutting is the only way people can reach the coal and there is no more coal near the surface as government officials claimed,” another local said, adding that these coal dumps have not been declared to the NGT.
If government officials were really doing their job, these ‘illegal’ coal dumps would be seized and fines imposed.
“Everyone is hand-in-glove in eating away the money from coal. Every official and politician is in it to make their money while the genuine people are being scammed,” a source claimed.
The Justice Brojendro Prasad Katakey NGT panel had sought for satellite mapping of every coal dump in the coal rich districts, based on a timeline, so that attempts to cheat the system could be avoided. But this very point, among others, was not accepted by the state government and this ultimately led to Justice Katakey’s resignation.
The successor chairperson of the NGT panel, Justice BD Agarwal, scrapped the Justice Katakey recommendations by terming then as being ‘unworkable’, but this, in turn, was not accepted by the NGT in its most recent order of April 30.