Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on Thursday praised as "people's victory" the Supreme Court directive to lift the National Green Tribunal ban on coal mining and said the verdict has upheld the rights of indigenous people on land and mineral deposits.
Addressing the 73rd Independence Day function at Polo Grounds in Shillong, Mr Sangma said the judgment will have a positive impact on the economy of the state.
"The recent verdict of the Supreme Court lifting the 2014 ban on coal mining is a big victory for the people of the state. The court has upheld the government's contention that the indigenous people of Meghalaya have rights over land and extracted mineral," he said.
The Supreme Court on July 3 set aside the ban on coal mining in Meghalaya imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) since April 2014, and allowed mining operations on privately and community-owned land, subject to permissions from authorities concerned.
It also directed the Meghalaya government to deposit the Rs 100-crore fine imposed on it by the NGT for failing to curb illegal coal mining.
Mr Sangma said the government has "walked the talk" on the issue and that the judgment is historic and its implications extend beyond the realm of coal mining.
"Perhaps, for the first time anywhere in the country, the government argued for protection of tribal rights, the unique culture and identity of the people before the highest court of the land," he said.
According to the chief minister, the state has about 576 million tonne of coal and nearly 9,300 million tonne of limestone deposits.
Stressing that human development, primary sector rejuvenation, advancement in education, entrepreneurship promotion are some of the major agendas of his government, Mr Sangma said the state is expected to get 25 more Eklavya Model Residential Schools in the next two years, in addition to the 11 that has already been sanctioned.
He also maintained that the government has decided to set up nine brownfield community colleges, for which it will provide a one-time infrastructure grant.
On the health care front, the Chief Minister said he has set a goal to significantly reduce the current Infant Mortality Rate (39 deaths per 1000 live births) and Maternal Mortality Rate (197 deaths per 100,000 live births) in the next 2-3 years.
He also said the state has spent about Rs 1,000 crore on MGNREGS in the last financial year for generating an average of 72 person days of wage employment for all registered job-card holders.
"We have set up a corpus fund of Rs 10 crore for providing small grants and soft loans to aspiring entrepreneurs," Mr Sangma said.
Talking about the farming sector, Mr Sangma said, "A US-based firm has visited the turmeric farms of Shangpung (Jaintia Hills) and discussed the possibilities for bulk procurement. Another San Francisco-based spice company has also expressed desire to source turmeric directly from the farmers," he added.