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By Mayborn Lyngdoh R | Jan 03, 2018:

The genesis –

Coal mining wasn’t always productive despite being lucrative. Most of the revenue disappear in the form of black money not to mention the harmful effects on the environment. Many fresh water resources have been polluted and most lands have turned barren.

In April, 2014 the NGT has decided to put a ban on rat-hole coal mining realizing the consequences. Despite the ban, the business continued to thrive and flourished. The ban was least effective and only looked good on paper. Politicians, administrators and the law protectors felt turning a blind eye was necessary. It was here, that Agnes Kharshiing, an active activist, decided to raise a voice against it since the ban four years ago.

However, four years later, on the 8th November 2018, Agnes Kharshiing and her aide Amita Sangma were mob attacked by 25-30 people in Tuber Sohshrieh following a personal investigation to unfold illegal mining taking place. There was a mix reaction. There were people that sympathized with the women, while others are skeptical particularly those that are well aware with the kind of reputation that one of the women has made for herself, and a handful of some that were applauding the attack.

The ones who applauded wrote (which can be roughly translated as), “When you try to destroy someone’s daily livelihood, you are bound to get destroyed”.

For decades, they (coal miners) have known only coal mining. How can you cut off the supply of bread without providing an alternative? When a person falls into a water-body, their animal instinct to protect themselves will kick in – he/she will do anything in their power to survive. You cannot
push someone into the deep end of a swimming-pool knowing very well that the person cannot swim. At best, you can give him/her a tube or a life jacket, then push.

The then ruling MPA Government (under the leadership of Mukul Sangma) did not care to look at the plight of the local people associated with mining. How were they going to survive? How can you push them into the swimming pool without teaching them first how to swim?

The MDA Government (Under the leadership of Conrad Sangma) is also making the same mistake.

ALSO READ : Meghalaya coal mine tragedy: A revelation of an open secret!

Following the attack there were questions that were left unanswered:

  •  Who was the man who attempted to bribe the CSWO president?
  •  What was the immediate need to go to Tuber?
  •  How did 25-30 people synchronized themselves spontaneously to time the attacked so perfectly?
  •  How did they know she/they were coming?
  •  Who informed them?
  •  Why book a cab? Is it because to not look suspicious of the intention?
  •  What was the real intention of going to Tuber after the man approached her?
  • Illegal mining was in full flow for years, what was special about that day?

Kong Agnes mentioned that there were also men in uniform that attacked them. While speaking to Batesi Tv, Kong also said that there also some honest police officers who tried to fight back against the coal mining mafias but were untimely transferred during the years, that is, between (2014-
2018).

It was mentioned that their transfers had a direct relation to the coal mining controversy. If this be true, who are they? Where are they posted now? Have they been investigated? Anonymous politicians are also dragged into the picture by Kong Agnes. Does she know who they are? If yes, then why hide? If not, then who was she hinting at anonymously and why?

This moves the subject to another angle. There is no denying that the attack was barbaric. The victims did asked for a CBI inquiry, but the State Government denied and instead called for an independent inquiry. Why? Is the Government protecting someone or a group of someone? The only consolation is that the High Court has decided to monitor the case.

When the attack on the two women took place, our Honorable Chief Minister was quick to brush off allegations of a prevalent rat-hole coal mining activity and even went to the extent of making a reckless statement, “As per the information available with the Government, no mining has been done ever since the NGT has put a ban in 2014.” Information was supposed to be absent Mr. Chief Minister. It’s illegal!

It barely took two weeks, and the pregnant woman trying to hide her pregnancy was exposed!

Fifteen or seventeen miners are found trapped inside a rat-hole. The Chief Minister has then reverted from his original statement and said, “We are aware of the illegal activities going on and this again is something that is not correct at all and appropriate action will be taken at appropriate time against the people who are involved in the illegal mining as this is not acceptable”.

Not long the police and intelligence identified some of the attackers to be an NPP leader, Mr. Nidamon Chullet and his supporters. Was the Government trying to protect him and its supporters?

As the old proverb goes, “Love and cough cannot be hid” — Jrin Chullet, the owner of the mine was then the next to be arrested. Even if one is dumb enough, one cannot miss out on the similarity of the surname of the NPP president in East-West Jaintia Hills and the owner of the mine, tagged with the delayed action that was taken against the accused.

What if there was a Political-Economic partnership?

It baffles me as well as most of us to read the headlines of the 13th December, 2018 that our Chief Minister has announced an interim relief of Rs 1 lakh to the trapped miners’ families. There is nothing wrong with that, however why should the Government use public money to pay for something that’s illegal?

This looks more like advertising and promoting coal mining rather than being against it. We all sympathize with the miners and their families, however the interim relief should be paid not by the Government but should instead be penalized from the alleged owner of the mine. Why is the Government protecting his illegal and black money?

ALSO READ | Meghalaya – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in 2018

Is there a political game that is being played here? Are there favours that are being served here? Is there a kind of partnership that is being shared or is in the process of being developed? This is just one reported coal mine where such mishap has taken place. Through the years, there has been many.

I also do not understand the opposition party’s vehement criticisms. Back in the years, you (Congress) were the ruling party. Were you blind then? Do you not realize that the failures of this Government is only an extension of yours?

In talking about mining, it is not just coal, but extensive limestone quarrying in Shella and parts of Shella that has also been left neglected. Though limestone quarrying is legalized by the Supreme Court, however the necessary scientific and environmental measures that were to be undertaken are missing.

The local citizens are exposed to the dangers of the environment around them, potentially risking themselves with cancer. Should we wait for the arrival of the black-death, and then give away Rs 1 lakh as interim relief?!

What we have learnt from the unfaithful tragedy is that common-man is dying both literally and figuratively. Banning of coal mining will first affect the common man depending on it for their everyday life; not banning of coal mining will harm the common-man again living in and around the area.

What can be done then?

The Government should be able to find ways and means of how to stop long term effects of coal mining and find solutions of an alternative wage generating profession for the workers so that they and their children would not die of hunger.

If the Government with all the money spent on advisors cannot reach at a progressive solution, then it’s sad to say that your advisors are useless.

Stop spending useful public money on people who have passed the age of retirement. They are only capable of taking advices from their doctors.

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