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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Rich but Poor

By the editor

Meghalaya is very rich in coal, limestone and other mineral deposits but because of central laws restricting exploitation due to unscientific operation people are in the dark and do not know how to proceed with wealth lying underneath. In past years, coal mining to a great extent has been lucrative business and state also earned good revenue so that development projects could be carried out successfully. People involved in coal business became prosperous and invested in property besides being able to send their children to good educational institutions not only within the state but also outside. But with ban on coal mining problems arose affecting revenue to the state exchequer, which greatly hampered development projects in the state. Desperate people resort to illegal activities which are frequently reported in the media and causing embarrassment to government in a tight situation and this prompted someone to proclaim that, “We are a rich nation but continue to remain poor.” It is indeed preposterous to think that despite having the fourth largest coal reserves in the world India is the second largest importer. Hence, central government has to devise ways and means for scientific and safe exploitation of coal for the benefit of government as well as for the people.

On June 18, 2020 Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced historic decision on coal mining with the theme “ Unleashing Coal: New Hope for Aatmanirbhar Bharat”. Prime Minister stressed, “While implementing coal reforms, it has been ensured that India’s commitment to protect the environment doesn’t get weakened.” Mining sector directly and indirectly employs about 1.1crore people and sustains livelihood of about 5.5 crore people. Latest Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2021 seeks to increase mining activities in order to boost economy. Among various aims and recommendations is to promote ease of doing business which specifies as follows: (1) Validity of statutory clearances of expired leases to continue even after expiry or terminating of mining lessee and shall be transferred to next lessee of the mine. This will ensure continuity in mining operation and production despite change in lessee. (2) Allow transfer of all mineral concession without any charges. (3) Clarified the scope of the phrase without lawful authority by inserting explanatory words whereby mines can only be penalised under section 21 for raining, transporting any mineral without prospecting license, mining lease or composite license or in contravention of rules made under section 23.

In spite of MMDR Amendment Act, 2021 no clear and proper message has been issued which creates misapprehension in the minds of coal mine owners. Shillong Rajya Sabha MP WR Kharlukhi has been harping on state and Centre to clearly decide on mining policy and reiterated that coal mining should restart because it is one of the main livelihoods of our people and state also earns good revenue. People have suffered much and for so long and hence authorities should come clear on this issue by extending immediate remedial measures. Rules and guidelines should be clear and easy to understand and not vague.

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