Coal mining poll plank in Meghalaya

Coal mining poll plank in Meghalaya

Conrad K Sangma

The National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) ban on coal mining in Meghalaya in 2014 has become a campaign topic for political parties vying for the two Lok Sabha seats in the state.

Days after the opposition Congress released a video blaming the ruling National People’s Party’s (NPP) “failure” to resolve the issue, chief minister Conrad K. Sangma has alleged that Mukul Sangma-led Congress government failed to challenge the NGT’s ban, impacting livelihood and causing financial loss to the state.

“Today I want to ask Mukul Sangma as to why he failed to challenge the NGT order in the Supreme Court in 2014. In 2018, when we came to power, the government had to start from the scratch and appeal in the Supreme Court. We have engaged with different stakeholders to resolve the ban on coal mining for greater interest of the people,” Conrad said at a rally at Jadi in South Garo Hills on Tuesday evening.

Conrad’s younger sister and sitting MP, Agatha Sangma is contesting from Tura Lok Sabha constituency against Mukul Sangma. Tura has been a stronghold of NPP, from where the party founder and Agatha’s father, P A Sangma was elected nine times.

The blame game over the mining ban has come amid the operation to dewater the 300-feet deep flooded coal mine in East Jaintia Hills district, where 15 miners got trapped on December 13 last year. Four bodies have been pulled out but the team of Navy divers were called back following the tension with Pakistan over the Pulwama attack.

Vested interests

Conrad alleged that Mukul Sangma had his own interest in revoking the ban, as he had a monopoly over the coal trade in Meghalaya. “In 2015, when the Central Government sought a response from the state government on exemption of Mine and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act from Meghalaya, the then government had failed to respond,” said a statement quoting the chief minister.

The NGT had issued the ban on coal mining, which was carried out without any safety measure and had seriously impacted the ecology. Conrad had earlier moved the Centre with a request to allow the coal mining with proper safety measures, as a large number of people are dependent on the business.