"Actions have been taken and thousands of cases have been registered," Conrad Sangma said
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma today said that without making alternative livelihood for coal mining workers, it is not possible for the state government to completely stop illegal coal mining and transportation. The government, however, will keep on with its efforts to stop this illegal activity, he added.
The Chief Minister said there are different laws to take action against those who are involved in illegal coal mining.
"Actions have been taken and thousands of cases have been registered. Chargesheets were filed against a large number of people found involved in illegal coal mining," Mr Sangma said.
"People have been engaged in this form of coal mining for the past 200 years and their livelihood has been based around that. Unless and until alternative livelihoods are arranged for workers, people would keep themselves in this form of coal mining," Mr Sangma told reporters, adding the government is glad that process of legal and scientific mining will start.
In April 2014, illegal coal mining, including the more dangerous practice of rat-hole mining, was banned in Meghalaya by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) after calling it "unscientific" and "most hazardous."
The prohibited activities, however, continued in Meghalaya and other northeastern states despite the Supreme Court and high court's subsequent directions.
Rat-hole mining, an extremely unsafe practice in Meghalaya, Assam and other northeastern states, involves digging narrow tunnels, each of which fits only one person to enter and extract coal, benefiting only coal traders.
Many workers have got trapped in illegal and unsafe mines and subsequently died. Five died in May and June 2021, but only three bodies were recovered from the flooded coal mine after hectic efforts for over 27 days in East Jaintia Hills district.
In December 2018, in a major tragedy in the same district, 15 migrant miners from Assam died inside an abandoned coal mine.
The 15 miners, whose bodies were never found, had been stuck in the coal mine at a depth of nearly 370 feet after a tunnel was flooded with water from the nearby Lytein river.