Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said the state government legally cannot restrict transportation of coal from Assam.
“The permission to transport coal from Assam to cement plants has been granted in compliance of MHA guidelines and directions to ensure continuity of operation of cement plants,” Sangma said while replying to a call attention moved by Congress MLA from Mawlai PT Sawkmie with regards to a recent protest staged by NGOs including coal miners in East Jaintia Hills district against transportation of coal from outside the state, on Friday.
He said the MHA guidelines strictly say that there should be no restrictions on inter-state movement of goods and cargo.
“We also obtain essential goods from other states. Legally, we cannot restrict transportation of coal from Guwahati,” he stated.
Sangma said the government on May 1, has allowed cement plants to operate at 50 percent capacity subject to strict compliance of protocols and guidelines issued by the MHA and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Three cement plants – Star cement, Meghalaya Cements and Dalmia Cement Ltd – submitted application for seeking permission to transport coal lying at Railway siding Guwahati.
It was stated by said cement plants that these coal was in transit and arrived at railway station before lockdown period. it was also stated that railway authorities directed these cement plant to unload and transport coal without any further delay.
“Therefore, in compliance of MHA guidelines, the state government allowed transportation of coal which is lying at railway siding, Guwahati to respective cement plants in East Jaintia Hills. Initially, only 30 numbers of trucks per day was allowed to ply, later on the restriction was withdrawn,” the CM said.
On the other hand, Sangma however said the state has prepared plan for transportation and handing over of coal to Coal India Limited (CIL) for e-auction for supply of 2 lakh MT of extracted coal to cement plants in place of coal transportation from Assam.
He said the plan has been approved by the NGT appointed committee on March 12.
He said the NGT committee has approved auction of 2 lakh MT extracted coal on pilot basis, out of which 75,000 MT for East Jaintia Hills district.
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“The coal will be auctioned by CIL and MSTC (Metal Scrap Trading Corporation). The department is pursuing matter actively with CIL and MSTC. A scheme for conducting e-auction is prepared and sent to CIL and MSTC,” the CM said.
Assuring that the auction notice will be issued shortly, Sangma said, “We may able to conduct first auction within next 2 to 3 weeks.”
He said the cement plants can purchase coal through auction of 2 lakh MT provided if they have an agreement or understanding with successful bidder or if they will participate in auction.
The CM however said there was also apprehension that drivers coming from outside the state may put a threat to the state due to COVID-19.
He said he has assured the leaders of the NGOs from East Jaintia Hills during a meeting held yesterday that maximum precautions are taken to prevent spread of the disease.
“Instruction has been given to the deputy commissioner and superintendent of police to ensure trucks from outside the state do not stop along the way,” he said.