Court scales down ‘grandiose’ Meghalaya plan to check coal mining

Coal reserves may be exhausted by the time the ₹374 crore proposal to station 160 companies of CRPF is implemented, the high court observed 

March 15, 2023 09:57 am | Updated 10:13 am IST - GUWAHATI

Labourers loading coals taken out from rat whole mines in East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya.

Labourers loading coals taken out from rat whole mines in East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya. | Photo Credit: Ritu Raj Konwar

The High Court of Meghalaya has scaled down a “grandiose” plan of the State government to spend at least ₹374 crore on 160 companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to check the illegal mining and transportation of coal.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned hazardous rat-hole coal mining in Meghalaya in April 2014. The ban and subsequent orders from the Supreme Court failed to check mine owners from carrying on their activities illegally.

Hearing a public interest litigation on Monday (March 13), Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee, Justice H.S. Thangkhiew, and Justice W. Diengdoh observed the government’s plan to deploy 160 companies of CRPF was “grandiose”. A company consists of 135 personnel.

The government indicated an expenditure of ₹316 crore for the construction of quarters and barracks and another ₹58 crore annually for the requisition of vehicles after the CRPF personnel are deployed.

“At any rate, even if the infrastructure constructed may be put to use by the State upon the CRPF no longer be required, it would take a considerable period to complete the construction and it would be a Herculean task to house 160 companies on a temporary basis. Indeed, the coal reserves may be exhausted by the time the State’s grand design is put in place,” the court said.

The court observed that it would be reasonable to deploy 10 companies of Central Industrial Security Force personnel instead of the CRPF as the latter functions under the command of State police unlike the former.

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