OPINION | SHILLONG | Dec 15, 2018:
When an open secret is revealed!
The Meghalaya government was on Friday left red-faced when it was finally forced to come out of its denial mode and admit that illegal coal mining is taking place in the state.
Sad to say but it takes an unfortunate incident for the government to open its eyes to the glaring truth.
While full swing operations to rescue the 13 miners who are trapped inside a coal pit in East Jaintia Hills are on, there are doubts over the survival of the victims but we continue to pray for their lives.
It may be mentioned that amongst the 13 people – 6 are from Assam, 4 from West Garo Hills and 3 of them are locals from East Jaintia Hills.
The tragedy struck just a month after CSWO president Agnes Kharshiing and her aide Amita Sangma were brutally attacked by a group of 35-40 men in Tuber Sohshrieh in East Jaintia Hills district while she was reportedly taking pictures as part of her investigation into the illegal mining and transportation of coal in the district.
The attack sparked mix reactions from different sections of the society. While a group of people and organizations including the Opposition party have demanded CBI probe into the attack and the alleged illegal coal mining in the state, the government was, however, adamant and prefer to stick to the judicial inquiry instituted recently to investigate into the incident.
During that period of time, the Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma and Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong had time and again maintained that there was no illegal coal mining in the state ever since the NGT ban in 2014.
Their statements were, however, proven wrong three days ago when reports of 13 miners trapped inside a rat hole mine surfaced.
It was only then that the state government had to come out of its denial mode and accept the truth. “The government is aware that illegal coal mining is happening in the state,” the CM had stated on Friday while assuring that appropriate action will be taken against those involved in these illegal activities.
Interestingly, the Opposition party, which had earlier raised its voice against the attack on the two women activists, is quiet on the matter.
The question that arises is – Shouldn’t the district administration and the police be held responsible for providing false inputs to the “innocent” government and the NGT on coal mining in the state?
To say that the government was unaware of the rampant practice of illegal coal mining in the state despite the NGT ban is “unbelievable” and this denial will likely cost the lives of 13 people as the survival chance of these poor souls is very minimal.
Coal mining is a very sensitive issue in our state and ever since the NGT ban in 2014, the issue has become all the more dangerous and the recent attack on the women activists is an example of the dangers associated with this issue.
Why isn’t there any strict vigilance all along the coal belt areas? Why was the matter always suppressed despite it, being an open secret? Does this prove the theory of politico-police-coal mafias nexus in the state?
If yes, what can we as “a people” do to rid ourselves from the double-standard, selfish and dangerous trend that is plaguing our society?
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org