GUWAHATI: Coal mining has forever remained a controversial business across India. In upper Assam the modus operandi of mining coal has always been alleged to be illegal and so, controversial.
The Assam government today hinted that it will back the Centre’s decision claiming that coal mining in the Dehing-Patkai reserve will be allowed only if it is sanctioned to be legal.
BJP’s promoinent leader , the state forest and environment minister, Parimal Suklabaidya, talking to media said, “It is during our BJP government that we identified the illegal mining going on in Dehing-Patkai and accordingly action was taken.” He further added that this government is only trying to make things legal, and it is the illegal nexus which had benefitted all this while that is creating the controversy now. Explaining further he said that illegal mining has been continuing in the area since 2003.
Moreover, it has never been reported that a single elephant has fallen victim to the illegal coal mining or its transportation in the area. “Is it really an elephant corridor where mining is taking place?” questioned the minister indicating that the “Amazon of the East,” i.e. the rain forest and the elephant reserve contained within it are far off from the actual area where mining of coal takes place. The forest minister further said that the state government has not yet given the approval, and it can happen only after proper scrutiny of the area.
For the record, a mining lease of 30 years was given to Coal India Limited (CIL) – a central government PSU – in 1973. After its expiry, CIL was supposed to apply for clearance from the forest department which it did only in 2012. However, coal mining had continued there always without the lease being renewed.
The Assam Forest Department had slapped a penalty of Rs 43.25 crores on CIL for this illegal mining activity inside the forest for 16 years since 2003; the department is yet to recover this amount. The forest department had also filed FIRs against officials responsible for alleged illegal activity on around 73 hectares of land inside the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve between 2003 and 2019. (Source: G Plus)