Assam losing Rs 2,000 cr revenue per month due to illegal coal mining: AJP


Digboi: Opposition party Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) on Sunday alleged that the northeastern state is losing nearly Rs 2,000 crore in revenue every month due to rampant illegal rat-hole coal mining in several places, particularly in Tinsukia district.

The party sent a memorandum to the President, Prime Minister, Supreme Court Chief Justice, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, NHRC Chairman and National Green Tribunal Chairman highlighting the issue.

“We have been highlighting rampant illegal coal mining, particularly rat-hole mining, in various parts of Assam. It has a direct impact on the environment, public health and the state exchequer,” AJP president Lurinjyoti Gogoi told PTI here.

He claimed that the government is aware that illegal coal mining, which has continued unabated for decades in Assam, has caused large-scale destruction to Dehing Patkai National Park — the largest rainforest in the Northeast.

The AJP, in its memorandum, pointed out that the NGT had in 2014 banned rat-hole coal mining, while alleging that it is still going on and the Assam government is aware of the illegal activities in the Digboi Forest Division.

“Inquiries in this regard have been ordered frequently at different levels. Commissions have been appointed to probe the illegal activity. These commissions have also submitted voluminous reports only to be shelved with no visible action,” the memorandum alleged.

Highlighting various directives of the Gauhati High Court, it alleged that even PSU firm Coal India carried out illegal mining inside the forest for 16 years from 2003 to 2019, which was admitted by the company in 2020.

“Seizure of trucks laden with coal dug out from the forests around Ledo-Margherita region has become a regular phenomenon despite there being a ban on rat-hole mining, without the kingpins ever being nabbed.

“It has created an impression that the government often displays a total inability, even reluctance, to check the illegal mining of coal in the eastern tip of Assam bordering Arunachal Pradesh,” the memorandum alleged.

The party claimed that there is no effective mechanism to keep a tab on the forested region and only the forest department and the police sometimes conduct drives to check illegal coal mining, but without any result.

“Tikak and Tirap are the two main coal producing collieries in Ledo-Margherita. They lie in close proximity to some villages, which facilitate the illegal miners/traders to hire local residents for digging coal. Locals, including women and children, use sharp tools to extract coal through the rat-hole method,” AJP alleged.

Further, transportation of the illegally mined coal is a bigger issue in terms of money transaction and tax evasion, which goes up to thousands of crores, it claimed.

“It is astonishing to know that daily 500-600 truckloads of coal are being transported, alone in Ledo- Margherita area, and the amount of commission ranges from Rs 70,000 to Rs 75,000 per truck,” the memorandum alleged.

The commission for other areas such as Jagun, Tipong Jisubai and Koylajan is even more and ranges from Rs 1.25 lakh to Rs 1.35 lakh per truck, it added.

“These commissions are taken in lieu of the tax challan that otherwise is required for transportation. Thus, the government is losing several crores. The estimated total monthly illegal transaction on account of illegal mining and transportation of coal in the state amounts to nearly Rs 2,000 crore per month,” the AJP claimed.

The opposition party claimed that illegal rat-hole coal mining has resulted in large-scale money laundering, misuse of money for criminalising politics and society, irreplaceable degradation of environment and forest, and huge loss of government revenue.

“We demand that illegal mining be stopped immediately and stern action be initiated against the persons (irrespective of government official and/or politician) involved in patronising illegal mining and transportation of coal,” AJP said in the document.

When contacted, state Mines and Minerals Minister Nandita Gorlosa declined to comment and said her secretary would get back to PTI. But no reaction was received from any government official despite several attempts.

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( With inputs from )

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