SHILLONG, Nov 15 - The BP Katakey committee constituted by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), today directed the Meghalaya Government to coordinate with its Assam counterpart to release ex-gratia payment to the next of kin of those killed in mining mishaps in the State.
In most of the coal mining tragedies in Meghalaya, a substantial number of miners hailed from Assam, including those killed in the Ksan mishap in East Jaintia Hills last year and the South Garo Hills in July, 2012.
Justice Katakey, a retired judge of the Gauhati High Court, said that in the 2012 South Garo Hills tragedy that took place at Nengkol, Rongsa Awe, 18 miners lost their lives, all of whom were from Assam.
The committee said a sum of Rs 1 lakh each has already been sanctioned for the Garo Hills victims by the Meghalaya Government, which is to be handed to the next of kin. However, the amount has not been disbursed to the persons concerned as the Deputy Commissioner has found it difficult to release the money as all the deceased persons were from Assam.
�We have asked the State Government to do the verification through the deputy commissioners of those respective districts in Assam,� Justice Katakey said. He added that the injured too need compensation, while there may be more claimants, which the Meghalaya Government has to ascertain.
The NGT pulled up the Meghalaya Government after banning rat-hole mining in April 2014 and sought appropriate action for restoration of the environment and rehabilitation of the coal mining victims.
Although the ban was imposed in 2014, the NGT took a retrospective view of the ill effects of such mining procedures and directed that the 2012 tragedy should be basis of payment of compensation and restoration of the environment.
The committee has also decided to increase the compensation package of Rs 1 lakh, which has been paid to the next of kin of the Ksan mishap. An additional amount of Rs 2 lakh was paid from the Prime Minister�s Relief Fund, which takes the compensation amount to Rs 3 lakh.
However, Justice Katakey said the compensation is still less and the committee will make a recommendation to the NGT to increase it.
Meanwhile, custom officials told the committee that under the guidelines issued by the State Government, it is not required to verify permits of coal-laden trucks entering Bangladesh.
�To my mind (this) is very astounding,� Justice Katakey said. Rejecting the submission made by the Custom officials, he said they are duty-bound to check everything that goes across the border to Bangladesh.
�This is not acceptable,� he said while directing the Meghalaya Government to make an enquiry to identify the persons involved in issuing the guideline and report this in its next hearing on November 21.