Archive for the ‘Meghalaya’ Category

Meghalaya Digs in, To Regularise Coal Mining

February 14, 2010

By Indronil Roychowdhury

meghalaya coal mines Kolkata/Shillong, Feb 14 : The Meghalaya government has finally decided to institutionalize and regulate coal mining activities in the state in view of the land degradation and forest depletion that are taking place owing to the present unscientific mining methods.

Meghalaya is the only state in the country where miners don’t need to take a mining lease from the government. Resultant: any individual owning coal-bearing land can extract coal and sell it in the market.

According to Meghalaya’s deputy chief minister Mukul Sangma, in an effort to bring all coal mining activities under the national Coal Mining (Conservation & Development) Act, 1974, the state government has engaged Coal India Ltd (CIL) to prepare a plan for institutional mining in the region. “We will first review the plan and then take a decision,” Sangma said.

Coal India chairman Partha S Bhattacharyya, while maintaining institutional mining was an imminent requirement in the state, said CIL had already submitted a draft plan for institutional mining on which the state government had to take a call. “If the state starts institutional mining, it comes under the national Coal Mining Act,” he said.

Bhattacharyya said it was not yet known whether the mines in Meghalaya would come under Coal India’s control or the state government, along with CIL, would float an SPV for the purpose.

Besides environment concerns, the state government’s efforts to develop thermal power plants are leading it to regularize mining activities in the region, Sangma said. “We are negotiating with NEEPCO and some private players to develop coal-based thermal power plants in the state,” he said.

“For the initial stage we have identified two sites — one at South Garo hills and another at the West Khasi hills — to generate a total of 960mw by the end of the 11 th plan period,” Sangma added. Meghalaya’s coal reserves are among the finest quality in the country with low ash content and high calorific value, though presence of sulphur in it is very high. Coal found in the region is primarily of sub-bituminous variety and has very good coking content with ash below 7-8%.

According to a Meghalaya government official, the state has around 660 million tones of coal reserves with the Garo hills alone having reserves of around 350 mt. West Dadenggiri, Balpakram, Pyndengrei, Siju, Mawlong-Shella, Laitryngew, Langrin and Bapung are prominent coal-bearing areas and are all witness to unorganised mining, the official added. India’s total proven coal reserves is estimated at around 197 billion tones with last year’s total production at 492.95 million tones.

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Thousand Misprinted Voter IDs in Meghalaya Dumped in Garbage

February 14, 2010

india voter id card Shillong, Feb 14 : A thousand misprinted electoral photo identity cards (EPIC), which were meant to be destroyed, were found thrown in a garbage dump, police said today.

The misprinted EPICs, numbering around one thousand, were given to the district administration for destroying through burning on Friday, election officials said.

However, police said they found the EPICs from a garbage dump at Mawlai on GS Road yesterday and seized them immediately.

Most of the EPICs belong to voters from Nongspung Assembly constituency and were issued during 2006-2007.

Meghalaya Man Travels 4,000km for his pet’s cure

February 13, 2010

By Jaikumar

meghalaya dog TILL DEATH DO US APART: Sanjay Sharma with his pet dog Bonxie at the Madras Veterinary University in Chennai

Chennai, Feb 13 : In an inspirational expression of love for his pet, a pet owner from Meghalaya has travelled to a Tamil Nadu Veterinary hospital, driving all the way in his private car to provide quality treatment to his ailing dog.

He covered about 4,000 kilometers to ensure special care to the ailing dog.

Sanjay Sharma’s 16-month-old American Boxer is suffering from some serious health problem.

The dog is suspected to have been suffering from cardiac disease. It suffers epileptic attacks due to irregular heartbeats.

Sharma, who has been living with his dog for the past 16 months, decided to visit Tamil Nadu veterinary and animal science university hospita,l following suggestion of his brother-in-law, a vet himself.

“He developed some problem. He was fainting suddenly for no apparent reasons. Because of that, his veterinary doctor from Shillong advised me to go in for some proper medical check up. We came to know that the best place to do this investigation is this veterinary hospital. My brother-in-law is also a veterinarian. He has studied from Madras Veterinary College. He told me it would be better to go there and get the investigations done. So I decided to bring him all the way by road,” said Sanjay Sharma.

Sharma was skeptical about the way airlines’ staff take care of pets while boarding, as in his pet’s case he required special care during the journey.

“The reason why I bought him here by road is because it’s a heart condition and he needs to have proper oxygen. When I spoke to the doctors here, they advised me that he should be brought in a way where oxygen is sufficient. Now I am not so sure about the airlines. I cannot guarantee that they will be giving adequate oxygen to the animals in the cargo. So I decided it’s better if I bring him by road, I didn’t wan to take any chance,” added Sharma.

The doctors of Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Science University Hospital will keep the dog under 72- hour observation before diagnosing the animal for any treatment.

Meghalaya CM, MEPA, Press Club Condemn Bomb Attacks

February 13, 2010

Lapang Shillong, Feb 13 : The Meghalaya Publishers and Editors Association (MEPA) and the journalistic fraternity today strongly condemned the bomb attacke on the office of a vernacular daily ‘U Nongsain Hima’ late last night.

In a meeting at Shillong Press Club, the MEPA decided that all Shillong-based newspapers would print a blank editorial in tomorrows edition as a mark of protest against the incident.

The Shillong Press Club also decided to hold a ”protest march” on February 15 to protest the attack.

Earlier during the day, Chief Minister D D Lapang also condemned the attack saying such things cannot be tolerated.

Mr Lapang said he had directed to nab the culprits at the earliest.

Deputy Chief Minister Mukul M Sangma said it was an attack on the right to freedom of expression.

”This is an attempt to suppress independence of the media.

This is against constitutional practices,” Mr Sangma added.

On Thursday night, an unidentified person hurled a petrol bomb at the newsroom of the leading vernacular daily, causing a minor injury to one of its staffers and damaging property including computers and documents.

According to staff members, the incident took place at around 2030 hours when a boy came running to the office, threw the bomb and fled the scene after committing the crime.

Police have registered a case and a probe was on.

Journalists Condemn Attack on Media House in Shillong

February 12, 2010

logo_nongsain Shillong, Feb 12 : Journalists here today condemned a petrol bomb attack on a media house by miscreants last night and demanded stringent and immediate action from the Meghalaya government.

At an emergency meeting, members of the Shillong Press Club also decided to organize a protest march on Monday against the incident.

Unidentified miscreants last night lobbed a petrol bomb inside the office of a prominent vernacular daily, U Nongsain Hima, damaging two computers, a scanner and some documents. A DTP operator also sustained minor injuries.

“We cannot take the incident lying down,” Shillong Press Club president David Laitphlang said.

A delegation of senior journalists also met senior police officials demanding action against the perpetrators.

Passive Militancy a Cause For Concern: Lapang

February 9, 2010

D D Lapang Shillong, Feb 9 : Meghalaya Chief Minister DD Lapang has said the security situation in the state is ”stable”, but admitted that ”passive militancy” is still a cause for concern.

”Both A’chik National Volunteer’s Council (ANVC) and Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) have been largely neutralized with a sustained police operation. However, passive militancy is still a cause for concern,” he said.

Mr Lapang was speaking at the Chief Ministers’ conference on Internal Security in New Delhi yesterday.

Urging the Centre for measures to stop insurgents of the neighboring states from colluding with their associates in Meghalaya, the Chief Minister said insurgent outfits – ULFA, NSCN, NDFB and UPDS – are not only supporting the local groups like Liberation A’chik Elite Force but also providing them arms, ammunition and training.

Insurgent outfits both from the Northeast and adjoining Bangladesh were also using the peaceful state both as temporary sanctuary and corridor, Mr Lapang said.

On the tripartite talks with the banned ANVC, Mr Lapang urged the Centre to go for a tripartite political and development accord with the Garo tribal militant outfit to bring the ongoing peace process to a logical conclusion.

Any further delay may lead to desertion by some leaders and cadres to such other outfits, he said.

Shyam Benegal Scouting in Meghalaya For Shooting Locations

February 8, 2010

shyam benegal Shillong, Feb 8 : Noted film maker Shyam Benegal today visited several tourist spots in Meghalaya to identify suitable locations for shooting his film.

Benegal, known for his critically acclaimed films such as Ankur, Nishant, Manthan, Bhumkia and others, visited several locations in Sohra to identify suitable locations for shooting of his upcoming movies.

”I am thinking of shooting one of my films here in this beautiful location,” he said before scouting to different locations.

Earlier, Benegal met members of the state task force constituted to promote film-making in Meghalaya. It was decided in the meeting that a sub-committee would be formed to create infrastructure in the state for Bollywood film makers.

”The task force would find ways to develop infrastructure in the state so that it would help film-makers,” Chief Minister DD Lapang said.

The state task force consists of Chief Minister Mr Lapang as the chairman, Deputy Chief Minister Mukul Sangma as co-chairman, while film makers Subhash Ghai, N Chandra and Benegal, actor Suneil Shetty are its members.

In the recent past, Mr Lapang met Bollywood film makers and other personalities during the 11th Mumbai Film Festival to promote the state as an ideal film making destination in the country with its beautiful natural surroundings.

Power Crisis in Meghalaya

February 8, 2010

A view of Umiam lake( Telegraph picture)   Shillong, Feb 8 : Meghalaya is staring at dark days with the water level in Umiam Lake decreasing gradually.

Yesterday’s reading at the lake was just 3192.93 feet, 28 feet less than the 3,220 feet required to produce maximum electricity.

The Meghalaya State Electricity Board (MeSEB) now has no option other than resorting to power cuts at the earliest.

Principal secretary, power, B.K. Dev Verma, today admitted that there was a shortage of power in the state as the 175MW Umiam hydel project was its only source at the moment. He said MeSEB officials would meet soon to discuss the hours of power cuts.

An MeSEB official said as examinations were round the corner, efforts would be made to ensure that students do not suffer.

“We will adjust the timing of the power cuts so that students are not affected as they prepare for various examinations,” he said.

Though Meghalaya has hydropower potential of around 3,000MW and a demand for over 600MW, its present power generation is only 175MW.

As the result the state is also unable to supply the required power to the industrial units in Ri Bhoi district .

The inability on part of the MeSEB to get the Myntdu Leshka hydel project (126MW) commissioned has worsened the crisis.

The state’s inability to explore the potential of coal-based thermal power projects adds to its woes.

Illegally Transferred Tribal Land Mortgaged to Foreign Banks?

February 6, 2010

By Dhananjay Mahapatra

Lafarge New Delhi, Feb 6 : French cement giant Lafarge’s $255 million cement plant in Bangladesh may run into rough weather, with the Supreme Court on Friday turning off the supply of raw material by temporarily suspending mining operations in eco-sensitive forest areas of Meghalaya.

The order completely stopping mining in East Khasi Hill district till March 19 came with a sense of outrage from the Forest Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices S H Kapadia and Aftab Alam.

It took strong exception to tribal land being allegedly transferred in violation of rules to the French company’s subsidiary which mortgaged it to raise a loan of $153 million from a host of foreign banks.

Appearing for Shella Action Committee, a forum of villagers in Shella, senior advocate P S Narasimha pointed out that not only was the land, falling under Schedule VI of Constitution banning its transfer to non-tribals, illegally taken over in collusion with local officials, but the mining was started without the mandatory clearance from the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) under the Forest Conservation Act (FCA).

Illegally depriving the scheduled tribes of their land, the same was mortgaged to a host of multi-lateral agencies and foreign banks — Asian Development Bank, International Finance Corporation, Deustche Investetionaud Ent, European Investment Bank, The Arab Bangladesh Bank and the Standard Chartered Bank, Bangladesh, for obtaining a loan of $153 million, Narasimha said.

Amicus curiae Harish Salve and A D N Rao said not only was the eco-fragile area opened up without the mandatory forest clearance, the raw material was being sent to Bangladesh at cost price depriving India of huge revenue due from customs and other duties.

Additional solicitor general Harin Raval, appearing for MoEF, said that the ministry had clearly issued an order in May 2007 staying the mining operations, but the SC had allowed it to go on.

The Bench asked the French company to give details of its operation and the manner it started mining even as its counsel Mukul Rohtagi and Abhishek Manu Singhvi tried to soften the blow by offering to price the raw material at market price. But, the Bench sought a detailed response and posted the matter for further hearing on March 19. However, it allowed it to lift the already mined limestone from the site for export, but with prior intimation to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) about the quantity of the mineral.

Lafarge Umuiam Mining Pvt Ltd (LUMPL) was mining the limestone quarry area spread over 100 hectares near the Indo-Bangladesh border for supply of raw material to Lafarge Surma Cement Project at Chhatak in Sunamganj, Bangaldesh.

Lafarge and Spanish cement producer Cementos Mollins had set up the state-of-the-art fully integrated cement plant at Chhatak with a captive power plant of 300 MW. In 2001, the Bangladesh high commissioner and then Indian foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh had singed an agreement for uninterrupted supply of raw material to the plant from the mines in Meghalaya.

After this agreement, Lafarge had claimed to have obtained relevant clearances from MoEF, the state government, the autonomous hill council and the chief conservator of forest for limestone quarrying in East Khasi Hills.

Meghalaya Orders Ban Against Bandhs

February 5, 2010

By Raju Das

meghalaya_map_313 Shillong, Feb 5 : Meghalaya today officially passed an order banning bandhs and threatened that disruptors of normal life would be imprisoned for a minimum period of three years with additional fines under the new order.

Minister in-charge of Law Bindo Lanong said that the government has amended the Meghalaya Maintenance of Public order Act, 1953 and inserted a clause in Section 6 of the Act, following a Cabinet meet. “Under the new clause, 6 (a), any person(s) or organization(s) disrupting normal life or destroying public, private property would be punished by imprisonment of not less than three years with additional fines,” Lanong said. The maximum period of imprisonment would not exceed seven years, he added.

The government, Lanong said, took the decision after the Gauhati High Court recently passed an order declaring bandhs in Assam and Meghalaya as “illegal and unconstitutional”. “Anyone who wants to contest the government’s decision should do so by filing a petition in the Supreme Court,” Lanong suggested.

Several organizations have earlier condemned the government’s proposal to impose ban on bandhs, stating they would defy the government’s decision as the move was “undemocratic”.