An internet news portal showed coal trucks passing unchecked after 10 pm until the wee hours of morning. People who visit Garo Hills vouch that coal trucks by the dozens are parked near coal depots loading coal. Recently the State Government told the Meghalaya High Court that coal mining has stopped. Residents of Upper Shillong certify to the fact that hundreds of coal trucks ply through that route daily. They all come from West Khasi Hills. Hence the State Government appears to be lying through its teeth. It is therefore in the fitness of things that the Meghalaya High Court should appoint retired Justice BP Katakey of Gauhati High Court to ensure compliance of its orders to stop rat hole mining sans a policy that follows the MMDR Act 1957. Justice Katakey was formerly head of the NGT eastern zone and had done his best within the constraints faced by the Tribunal with its wings being clipped. Hopefully, Justice Katakey will now be able to play a more assertive role to check state illegality.
The state is supposed to maintain the rule of law at all times. That is its prime duty and those elected take a pledge to serve the Constitution. But as witnessed over the years since 1950 the state has itself become the biggest violator of principles laid down by the Constitution hence the judiciary has had to open its doors to the public to file their grievances through the public interest litigation (PIL) route. While there have been a few cases of misuse of this route, by and large the public is able to bring to the doors of the judiciary such blatant acts of violation of the laws by the state or its agents.
What pushes interested parties to continue with illegal coal mining activities is because politics is heavily reliant on the coal economy. The state has a sacred duty to protect the environment but this has turned into a sordid joke because it is the state which is now the biggest violator of environmental norms be it in granting mining leases even within forest areas or clearing off forests for exploiting coal and limestone. The state has made pious noises about dredging the Umiam Lake which is heavily silted with garbage and soil from anthropogenic activities around the Lake and also because the Umiam has become the sole repository of all effluents from the rivers draining into it. But without the High Court’s intervention all those pious declarations would have been just lip service. Without the judiciary, governance has come unstuck in Meghalaya.
Read More: Blatant denial by State Govt