The issue of the illegal coal trade continues to rock Meghalaya as in the last five years several such cases came to light.
Over 2,000 cases have been filed against illegal mining and transportation of coal during the past five years even as the state government has invoked provisions of The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 to ensure those who get caught in the act be jailed for five years along with fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.
Replying to a query raised by Mawphlang MLA, SK Sunn in the Assembly on Monday, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said incidents of illegal mining and transportation of coal is a situation the state has been facing since 2014.
“Since 2018 (till date), 400 cases have been filed against illegal mining and transportation of coal. We can see that almost 2,000 cases have been filed in the past five years regarding this entire situation,” Sangma said.
On the steps taken by the government to stop such illegal activities, the chief minister said the state government has implemented section 21 (4) of the MMDR Act, which was not done in the past.
According to him, earlier only provisions that were there were under the CrPC Act, which if individuals happen to get caught, and small fines will be put in thereby there were not a lot of deterrents.
“When we took over the government, we invoked section 21 (4) of the MMDR Act as this will ensure if anybody is caught in illegal mining or transportation, (they) will be jailed for a period of 5 years maximum and fine of Rs 5 lakh,” he said.
The chief minister also informed that joint patrolling teams from transport, mining, and police departments have also started in different locations, to ensure that there is a coordinated effort by the administration and by the government to make sure there are no such activities taking place.
“We have created centralised helpline ‘18003453846’ where complaints can be given by individuals for any type of illegal transportation or illegal mining that they find
We also put a cash reward of Rs 5,000 for anybody who gives us information on illegal mining and transportation of coal.”
“We have laid down procedures to recover any kind of illegal usage of coal. This is under section 21 para 5 of the MMDR Act wherever the coal is transported and sold there is a provision for the government to recover the money for any kind of illegal coal,” he said while adding this is a very strong provision which was never used before and this is another big deterrent being put in by the government.
Sangma further informed that the government has also introduced high-security challans adding that earlier the challans were simply printed on a piece of paper but the new ones have got fugitive ink, which is of high level and cannot be replicated, holograms, QR code.
Stating that there is also joint mobile patrolling by police, which keeps moving from location to location besides setting up district task forces, he said the government is also going for a project where smart and integrated check gates will be put up in different locations and they will have different technologies to ensure all these aspects are double-checked.
“There is also a monitoring team being set up at the chief secretary level and members are additional chief secretary, the DG, and commissioner secretary for mining which meets every month to look into all these aspects,” he informed.