Since the ban on coal mining in Meghalaya by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2014, a total of 2,155 people have been arrested by the state police in connection with 1,316 reported cases of violation of the ban in terms of extraction of coal and transportation.
According to collated government data, which The Indian Express accessed, 948 cases have been chargesheeted, the final report has been submitted for a further 139 cases, while and 229 cases are “pending”. In this period of approximately five years, 9351.20 MT of coal has been seized.
The district of East Jaintia Hills — which grabbed headlines after at least 15 workers were trapped and feared dead in a mine in Ksan area on December 13 — registered the highest total number of cases for violations at 543.
The NGT ban came after a petition by Assam’s All Dimasa Students’ Union and the Dima Hasao District Committee complained that due to rat-hole mining in the Jaintia hills, the water in the Kopili river had turned acidic.
“We are of the considered view that such illegal and unscientific method can never be allowed in the interest of maintaining ecological balance of the country and safety of the employees,” the order dated April 17, 2014 said.
But coal mining has carried on in the state despite the ban. After the Ksan accident, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma admitted to the press that the government was aware that “illegal mining” was happening in the state.