The Meghalaya High Court said the CRPF can have a more aggressive role to control and monitor the illegal mining and transportation of coal in the hill state.
The High Court also directed the Meghalaya government to indicate the number of central armed police force personnel it requires to effectively monitor and check illegal mining and transportation of coal in the state.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee on Tuesday instructed Justice (Retd) BK Katakey to work out the modalities of control and monitoring.
“The state, which has thus far been ineffective in either implementing the ban or in checking illegal transportation, is given a lesser role in the further monitoring and CRPF can have a more aggressive role in such regard,” the order stated.
“The state will indicate the ideal number of companies of (capf) personnel necessary to effectively monitor and check the prohibition on unscientific mining of coal, including rat-hole mining, and the transportation of the recently illegally mined coal,” the bench said.
Pursuant to the court’s query on the cost of deployment of CAPFs, Deputy Solicitor-General told the court that the role of the Central Industrial Security Force is to guard installations and buildings and not really do police work.
He however, informed that the Central Reserve Police Force is available to augment the policing duty ordinarily undertaken by the state police, adding that companies and battalions of the said force are available both in Shillong and in Guwahati.
Peeved at the lack of livelihood of the people in mining areas, the court also directed the state government to devise schemes to provide alternative livelihood to the people who have taken to dangerous mining methods for want of opportunities.
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“It is almost a social malaise. People who have been involved in such forms of mining for a long period of time have to be weaned out and for such purpose, the state has to devise schemes and provide alternative forms of livelihood,” it said, adding that awareness and education would also go a long way in arresting the menace.
According to the court, the entire saga of illegal mining cannot be seen to be the handiwork of a specific class of persons.
It said that though the contempt rule remains pending against the SP of East Jaintia Hills district, his personal presence is dispensed with since he is required to be on the ground, particularly during the election season.
“The Superintendent of Police will next be required to be in court when specifically called for, or else, the reply sought for him will suffice for the moment,” it said.
The state has filed a report dated February 13, 2023 enclosing the post-mortem reports pertaining to the recent deaths due to rat-hole mining in Khliehriat.
The next hearing of the case has been fixed on February 28.
The NGT had in 2014 issued a blanket ban on mining and transportation of coal using traditional rat hole methods for lack of safety for the miners and concerns for the environment. Transportation of coal already mined before 2014 and the illegal coal dumps seized by the state was, however, allowed from 2017 with strict conditions and monitoring.