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Joint meeting of Central ministries on coal mining ban soon: Conrad

By Staff Correspondent

SHILLONG, April 17 - Chief Minister Conrad Sangma today informed the House that a joint meeting between the Prime Minister�s Office, Coal, Forest and Environment ministries would be convened soon in New Delhi to find ways to lift the coal mining ban in Meghalaya.

Giving a statement on the issue, Sangma said last Sunday he had held discussions with Union Coal Minister Piyush Goyal and the talks revolved around finding ways to lift the coal mining ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal on April 17, 2014.

Reiterating the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance Government�s (MDA) commitment to get the ban on coal mining lifted, the Chief Minister said his discussions with the Union Coal Minister were productive. A similar meeting was also held with the PMO.

Sangma informed that State Government officials are currently in the national capital and holding discussions with officials from the Coal, Forest and Environment ministries.

�The State Government officials will send their reports on the discussions held and then a joint meeting with the PMO will be convened,� the Chief Minister said.

Stating that the State Government is in favour of lifting the ban, Sangma said the MDA Government stands by the 2015 resolution adopted by the Assembly which favoured exemption of Central laws from Meghalaya, which is a Sixth Schedule State.

The 2015 resolution urged the Government of India to issue a Presidential notification, under Para 12A (b) of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, that relevant sections and sub-sections of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 shall not apply or apply with modifications to the autonomous regions (Scheduled Areas) in Meghalaya.

Further, it was also resolved that the Coal Mines (Nationalization) Act, 1957 shall not apply to the autonomous region (Scheduled Areas) in the State of Meghalaya.

The Chief Minister said that due to the ban on coal mining, the economy of the State has been hit severely to the tune of Rs 700 crore annual losses to the Government from royalty and at least Rs 4,000 crore loss from the economy.

As a result, Sangma added, a large number of people have lost their livelihoods, which also included workers, drivers and accountants apart from coal mine owners. Indirectly, there were sectoral losses due to the ban as cement plants and also industries such as paper mills have been affected.

�It is a very, very important issue for the Government. The Government wants the ban lifted, but at the same time it would ensure that the environment is protected. There has to be a delicate balance between the environment and economic activity,� he said.

Stating that policies would be put in place to protect the environment as there was blatant abuse of the environment in the past which prompted the ban, Sangma said stringent checks would be conducted to ensure that policies to protect the environment are not violated.

�We are hopeful that we would find a way forward on the issue,� Sangma said.

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