Nongal Bibra, Oct 22: Leader of Opposition Dr. Mukul M. Sangma on Thursday visited Nengkra in East Garo Hills to inspect the coal depot and said that coal deposit in the dumping area was about 5000 tonnes and the projected 34,000 tonnes were ‘illegally’ transported.
Speaking to media at Nengkra, Dr. Sangma said, “Modus operandi which is going on involving all concern is – facilitation of illegal mining and transportation. Now if there were 34 k tonnes of coal… it has been either illegally transported without paying of royalty or the coal was not there in the first place”.
He further alleged that challans for 34 k MT was issued by the DMR and it was ‘interesting’ as he said that the route for transport was Nengkhra to Nongstoin via Ribhoi. He further questioned why long route was used for transportation of coal, when the nearest railway station was Jogighopa in Goalpara district of Assam.
However, Hub News has access to relevant facts – (1) royalty for 34 K MT was paid to DMR and the route for transportation was chosen by the awardee, who bagged the award for the auctioned coal; (2) apart from royalty the bidder has also paid for 34 K MT coal to the District Authorities.
Interestingly, the allegation by the opposition leader is not true. It is viewed by a section of coal barons from Meghalaya that Dr. Sangma has visited the area for his own vested interest in facilitating the ‘coal lobby’.
Hub News has factual information that the coal was assessed because there was complaint filed by Nokma of Nengkhra and civil society groups in mid-2019 that coal was lying unclaimed in the area.
Based on the complaint filed by the Nokma and civil society groups, the district authorities of East Garo Hills had directed Divisional Mining Officer (DMR) and Police Investigation Officer to assess the ‘unclaimed coal’.
On assessment it was found that approximately 34 K MT of coal was lying unclaimed.
Notably, an amount of Rs. 7.75 cr was paid for coal royalty and cess by the bidder.
A case was registered for unclaimed coal by police in Williamnagar.
Hearing the case, the Chief Judicial Magistrate of East Garo Hills had passed an order dated 11.12.19 which said, “The Investigation Officer prays for an order to be passed to dispose (auction) the seized coal, amounting to 34,082 MT, kept at Nengkhra Agalgre by the District Administration. The prayer of the Investigating Officer is considered in light of the provisions of the sections under Mines & Mineral (Development & Regulation) Act 1957, Section 457/458 CrPC. And the observations and orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in para 191 (Conclusions), sub-para 20-22-25 para 192 (Decisions/Orders), sub-para, su-sub para (i), (iv) in ……..”
It also said that the coal was seized in the district under the provision of Section 21 of Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulations) Act 1957.
The order also said that effort to locate the owner of the seized coal was made, however, no one came forward to claim for it. The court order also said that if the coal was kept lying in the area it could cause contamination of the ground water and alter the pH level which in turn would cause environment hazards.
In view of the scenario, the court order stated that “it finds it prudent that the seized coal be disposed of by the auction”.
As per the court order necessary proclamation u/s 457 (2) CrPC was issued which said, “The proceeds of the auction shall vest with the Government of Meghalaya after a period of six months from the date of execution of proclamation u/s 457 (2) CrPC if no legitimate claimants establishes his/her claim of ownership of the seized coal before this court”.
It is to be noted that till date nobody had challenged the court order claiming ownership of the coal.