File photo of Mukul Sangma

Former chief minister and leader of opposition in Meghalaya, Mukul Sangma has flagged “illegalities” in the transportation of coal, even as he maintained that there was “no question of having any unclaimed coal” in the state.

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“Public auction means everybody has to know. It is an open sale where the particular thing that is being auctioned is awarded to the highest bidder,” Sangma told reporters while inspecting the coal auction site at Nengkra in East Garo Hills district on October 22.

“In order to ensure that you have the highest bidder, you have to have, substantial time given for likely interested parties to come and participate, so that the maximum prices are realized and you get the highest bidder. Interestingly, here the price which was awarded was below Rs 2000 – Rs 1400-1500 per MT,” he said, citing a particular example.

Stating that there is a “patronage” by people in authority on the illegalities in transportation and auction of coal, the leader of opposition said: “There is a need to send a strong message otherwise what is happening is that people who are engaged in the illegalities are getting emboldened because it is likely that there is a patronage.”

“It’s time for us to save the state from the type of infamous narratives that are being circulated across the region and across the nation. You have seen the repeated denials coming from the government, not from anybody else but from the chief minister himself,” Sangma said.

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“In spite of people trying to draw the attention of the government and the chief minister himself, there is hardly any attempt to even verify, whether such allegations are having any substance,” the former chief minister said.

The veteran politician also said that the statement of the Lokayukta was an “expression of both anger and frustration that the powers that be are trying to stonewall any process of verifying any such illegalities happening”.

“The quantity of coal in question which was auctioned was 34,000 MT but it will hardly be 5000-6000 MT at the site, so this is the ground reality,” he said in connection with the example that he had cited.

“This indicates only the modus operandi which is going on involving all concerned for continuation of facilitating illegal mining and illegal transportation. If there were 34,000 MT coal here and if it’s not here, either it has been illegally transported without paying the royalty to the government or the coal was not there in the first instance,” he pointed out.

“It is interesting to see that that for 34,000 MT the challans have been issued by the DMR and it is also interesting that the route indicated is from Nengkhra-Nongstoin-Ri-Bhoi, which is a long route, whereas the coal usually from here if it is to be transported, the nearest railway station is Jogigopa in Assam, and this is the usual trade route for all coal traders even from West Khasi Hills district this is the preferred route,” Sangma pointed out.

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“The owners have rented the site to dump coal at the rate of Rs 60,000 per month and it means the owners are there,” he asserted.

(The headline of the story was edited. We regret the error.)

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