Govt-Oppn at loggerhead over coal auctioning

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The ongoing autumn session of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly on Monday experience a heated discussion between the opposition Congress legislator Zenith M Sangma and Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma. The intense to-and-fro war on words on the contentious issue of coal mining, auctioning, and transportation in the state is more like Sangma vs Sangma battle.

The state Assembly on Monday witnessed heated debate and blame game between the ruling and opposition over the coal issue.

During the question hour in the Assembly, opposition Congress legislator from Rangsakona, Zenith Sangma asked if the 32 lakh metric tons of already extracted coal is practically available across the state and step were taken to start the auctioning process to which Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma replied that the 32 lakh MT of coal was a creation of the then Congress-led state government.

Zenith however demanded the chief minister to give a categorical reply when the latter wanted to give a background of the entire issue.

The chief minister however reminded that the amount of coal (32 lakh Mt) was declared way back in 2015 when the member was a minister.

“If he (Zenith) is questioning whether it is there or not, he should have questioned that time when he was in the government,” he said while asking Zenith not to disturb in between and to behave in a mature manner since he is a senior member of the house.

Conrad said on June 9, 2014, a committee was set up to assess the coal, and over 1.3 crore metric tons of coal was declared adding a post that, when the assessment was again done by a committee, the quantity came down to 95 lakh MT.

He however said coal miners came forward to request the government to look into the assessment done earlier and based on the Supreme Court’s order, 32 lakh MT of coal was declared.

“Therefore, this 32 lakh MT of coal is not created by us but it is during their (Congress) time. You took out this 32 lakh MT it is not our creation. When the miners came to us, we appealed to Supreme Court, which asked us to assess and now Supreme Court has approved for auctioning through Coal India Limited,” he said.

Claiming that the 32 lakh MT of coal still exists, the chief minister said, “If the officers from different departments of the government had submitted to the NGT and the Supreme Court has accepted, do you think it can be done without coal being there. Yes, it is there.”

“If he (Zenith) is questioning that means he is questioning the authority of the Supreme Court and he is also questioning himself and his government,” he added.

On a query raised by Mawphlang MLA SK Sunn regarding the auctioning process of the assessed coal, the chief minister said five depots have been created in four districts – two in East Jaintia Hills and one each in West Khasi Hills, South Garo Hills, and South West Khasi Hills, after the NGT has made it mandatory for the state government to transport the coal from the mines to the depots.

“Transporters have already been engaged. Coal India Limited has deputed their manpower in all the depots and transportation from the mines to the depots at least in one district that is East Jaintia Hills is going on as we speak and the process for the other districts will also start very soon,” Conrad said.

Stating that due to these challenges, the chief minister said that the government was not able to start the auctioning process till date while assuring “But we are very close to it as we have been able to comply with requirements of the Supreme Court and NGT committee.”

Meanwhile, the chief minister also informed that the online portal for e-auctioning of the coal was also launched by the Metal Scrap & Trading Corporation Ltd (MSTC).

He said coal miners will have to go for testing of their coal and then submit their report to the deputy commissioner, who will transport the coal to the depots after which it will be put for online auctioning by the MSTC.

Earlier, Congress legislator from East Shillong, Ampareen Lyngdoh has requested the Assembly Speaker Metbah Lyngdoh to constitute a house committee to trash out the confusion over the coal issue.

When the Speaker assured to take note of the request, Deputy Chief Minister in-charge parliamentary affairs, Prestone Tynsong raised a point of order saying that the submission of the member (Ampareen) is not correct since it was a question hour.

“I don’t think the house needs to constitute a house committee…the proposal made by the member is not justified,” Tynsong stated. The request was later turned down by the Speaker. EOM