While the Meghalaya government has prepared a “blueprint” for the deployment of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the state to check illegal coal mining and coal transportation, the Meghalaya high court said 10 companies of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) should be enough for the purpose.
Hearing a suo motu PIL on March 13, the full bench of the Meghalaya high court – Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice HS Thangkhiew and Justice W Diengdoh observed that the state government’s plan as per the “blueprint” is rather “grandiose” as it seeks deployment of 100 companies in the eastern range and 60 companies in the western range where one company consists of 135 personnel.
“Though the state has indicated in great detail the number of companies to be deployed in the 12 districts, including bifurcating the companies which would be involved in checking vehicles and others which would check the mining activities, the cost implication, even on a short-term, temporary basis, may make it infeasible. Indeed, only on account of construction of quarters and barracks, the state has indicated a sum of Rs 316 crore and for requisitioning vehicles an annual expenditure in excess of Rs 58 crore,” the bench said.
“At any rate, even if the infrastructure constructed may be put to use by the state upon the CRPF no longer being required, it would take a considerable period to complete the construction and it would be a herculean task to house 160 companies on a temporary basis. Indeed, the state’s coal reserves may be exhausted by the time the state’s grand design is put in place,” the bench said in its order.
The court further said: “Instead, it appears to be fair and reasonable to this court to deploy 10 companies, not of CRPF but of CISF. That is because, as the central government duly points out, the CRPF functions under the command of the state police whereas CISF can function independently. On a query from the court, it is submitted on behalf of the central government that CISF would be able to handle the aspect of checking goods vehicles.”
According to the high court, considering the total area in the state and that some of the remote pockets do not have roads or even the menace of illegal coal mining and its transportation, ten companies of CISF should be enough to check the vehicles and completely arrest the illegal transportation of coal.
“While CISF is engaged in checking the vehicles, there is no doubt that it would also check for contraband and ensure that the goods vehicles conform to the weight limits for plying on the state and national highways in Meghalaya,” the court said.
The high court also asked senior lawyer and deputy solicitor general of India Nitesh Mozika to ascertain the logistics and formalities for 10 companies of CISF to be deployed for the purpose of checking the illegal transportation of coal in the state.
“The process may not last several years as the state proposes to open up scientific mining and grant licenses in accordance with law which may make illegal coal mining an unattractive proposition thereafter,” the court added.
The high court also proposed that after the 10 CISF companies are made available for the purpose, the key areas which need to be manned and guarded would be decided in consultation with Justice BP Katakey.
It was also made clear that the deployment of CISF will be on payment basis, subject to negotiation between the state government and the Centre.