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Efforts to Curtail Unsafe & Unregulated Mining in South Garo Hills, Meghalaya.


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The Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances, Government of India, organized the 2nd 'District Collectors Conference', which took place on the 6th & 7th of September in New Delhi. Over 30 district collectors participated, making presentations on best practices to overcome challenges faced in the sectors of rural development, education, urban development, law & order, and disaster management. 

The Planning Commission is providing these presentations for the public to see examples of the good work being done by young IAS officers in the field, and to promote cross-learning and innovation.

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Efforts to Curtail Unsafe & Unregulated Mining in South Garo Hills, Meghalaya.

  1. 1.  Total Population - 1,41,411. (Census 2011)  Four C&RD Blocks; One municipality.  627 villages and just four police stations. District HQ bang on Bang Border
  2. 2.  Have coal reserves in Nongalbibra and Jadi area  Siju and surrounding area has lime stone caves. Also, a spectacular tourist destination. Siju is a “Bat Sanctuary”, probably the only of its kind in India.  Major producer of Cashewnut, Arecanut and jackfruit  Areca-nut Processing Unit & Cashew-nut Processing Unit already constructed at Gasuapara Block ; Inauguration on 28th August.  Under BRGF, the funds are earmarked for setting up a Jackfruit Processing Unit at Baghmara.  Tourist destinations such as Balpakram National Park, Siju Caves and others need promotion.
  3. 3. Many… You name it and you have it ! • Remoteness and difficult terrain ; Cost of things multiply exponentially due to carriage cost. A Cement bag may cost Rs. 1400/- at places. • Poor road connectivity – We still have wooden bridges on an NH ! • No or very erratic communication connectivity – Phone, Mobile and Internet. ECI had asked us to use “Grameen phone” during MLA elections, 2013 ! • Militancy – SGHs as a transit route. • Elephant Depredation – They do pay courtesy visits to DC Residence ! • Bandh Culture
  4. 4.  Unscientific and unregulated coal mining is rampant in SGHs district. Jowai and SGHs are major coal areas of Meghalaya.  No one‟s baby… • Mines not registered. Nokmas (Village head) leases out the area to whoever pays more. • Mining department doesn't have list of mine owners. • Claims of traditional mining rights made but no legal sanction to support the claim. • Labour department shirks its responsibility, saying that it can‟t do anything as the mines are not registered.
  5. 5.  Coal Mine accidents - Deaths of and injury to the coal mine labourers a common phenomenon.  District administration tried to find and fix responsibility, but to no avail. The GHADC as well as govt departments shirked their responsibility.  So, an order under S. 133 CrPC was passed prohibiting coal mining in SGHs district, keeping in mind the labourers‟ safety.
  6. 6.  May‟ 13 – Public Memorandum mentioning the “distress and difficulties” faced due to the order passed. To quote “We accept that accidents happen in the mines which is unpredictable as we work hand in hand with enormous machines in our mines, but this is how and from where we learn, also prepare ourselves to avoid the same accidents and prepare ourselves with perfection for better tomorrow.” – Rejected as no solution was provided.  June „13 – On the rejection of previous memorandum, a public meeting was taken on 31st May, 13 where a Nongalbibra Joint Action Committee was formed and it was resolved that the District Magistrate was interfering in the “Tribal Traditional Rights” of coal mining and hence a Public Agitation to follow if the order was not revoked. – It was made clear to the NJAC that no legal sanctity to “Traditional Mining Rights” exists. They were directed to work on the Resolutions on labourer safety and registration.  August‟ 13 - A resolution of NJAC meeting held in July‟13 was submitted . It proposed  1. Divide Coal areas in N‟bibra in Six sub-areas.  2. “Mining Inspectors” to be appointed and paid by the NJAC, who will work under the Labour Inspector, SGHs / divisional Mining Officer, Williamnagar / Deputy Commissioner, SGHs.  3. They will be responsible for regular checkup of mining machineries, safety measures in the mines, labourers‟ registration etc.
  7. 7.  NJAC was asked to change the nomenclature of appointees to “Labour / Mining Supervisors” to avoid confusion with Govt officials.  Character Verification of such proposed supervisors by the police.  NJAC is asked to decide about the compensation to the victims in case of death or injury. To be “at par” with Govt compensation.  Monthly inspection report to be submitted to District Administration as well.  A workshop on “Mine Safety” to be organized for educating the mine owners and operators. • The District Administration already tried for this, but the Directorate of Mine Safety cited incapability due to “personnel shortage.” Matter referred to central govt.