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The Congress party in Meghalaya on February 21 reiterated its demand for an independent probe into the alleged illegal coal mining and trade in the state.

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“It is in the mind of the Congress to see that a central inquiry team is instituted (into the alleged coal racket),” Meghalaya Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) working president Pynshngain N Syiem told reporters after welcoming the joining of an advocate, Erwin Sutnga to the party.

He said it is sad that the state is losing huge revenue due to the illegal coal mining and trade. Syiem also slammed the state government for its alleged continued denial mode on the matter.

“To give a statement that there is no evidence is very wrong and incorrect. When two persons have died in the mining area (in West Khasi Hills district), I think that is already hard evidence,” he added.

Echoing similar views, Sutnga, who expressed that he had joined the Congress with a spirit of service, had demanded that the MDA government come clean on the alleged illegal coal trade.

“I challenge the MDA government, if you are really serious and you have no hand in this and you want to end this allegation that you had given a verbal order, ask the CBI to come in,” he said.

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He was referring to reports on the arrest of a coal trader and four others in Assam for tax evasion and the allegation that the state mining department is allowing illegal coal trade based on “verbal orders”.

“You control the police, you control the mining department, you control transport department, you control the government and you are misusing the government because why, even if we file FIR, there has been FIR upon FIR and even today the Nokma in Garo Hills have file FIR but they are being cover-up. Officers are being forced to go hand in gloves. An inquiry has to be done,” Sutnga said.

The advocate further termed the alleged continued denial of the state government as a “classical defence”

“I am a lawyer. I know that this is a classical defence for any accused to say bring proof because the law says you are innocent until proven guilty. So they take shelter behind this instead of being concerned (on this issue),” he said.

Sutnga further alleged that the inquiry set up by the present state government into the scam in the implementation of the Saubhagya scheme was just an eyewash.

“Liabilities of the state are also growing. They (the government) have also brought about Rs 2,000 crore liabilities for the MeECL. This liability is not to bring in development or reforming MeECL but to pay back loans,” he said.

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The advocate also questioned the government’s claim of spending over Rs 639 crore in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. “We do not know where this has been spent,” he said.

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