Meghalaya Chief Minister and National People’s Party (NPP) chief Conrad Sangma has said that the ban on coal mining in the state by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) since 2014 has affected livelihood of people and caused financial losses for the state. He has said that his government has challenged the ban and is trying to restart mining after addressing environmental and safety issues.
In December last year, at least 15 workers were trapped inside a mine in East Jaintia Hills district and are believed to have died, even though rescue operations are still on.
Illegal rat-hole mining — in which narrow tunnels, three-to-four-feet-high, are dug into mountains for workers to move through and extract coal — continues to thrive in Meghalaya despite the ban.
Sangma made the remarks while addressing an election campaign rally in South Garo Hills district on Tuesday evening for his sister Agatha Sangma, who is contesting from Tura on an NPP ticket. Her main opponent is former Meghalaya CM Mukul Sangma of the Congress.
Lashing out at the Congress candidate, CM Sangma said he “failed to challenge the NGT order, which created hurdle for the people dependent on coal mining”. Sangma said, according to an official release, “In 2014, NGT had banned coal mining in Meghalaya. I ask Dr Mukul Sangma why he failed to challenge the NGT order in Supreme Court. In 2018, when the MDA came to power, the government had to start from scratch and appeal in Supreme Court. We have engaged with different stakeholders to resolve the ban and we are committed to resolve the issue for the greater interest of our people.”
Sangma’s NPP leads the heads the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government in which the BJP is a coalition partner.
The Congress, he alleged, is now making videos against the NPP and “trying to create confusion among the people (by) saying that the NPP failed to resolve the issue”.