New Delhi/Shillong: The Supreme Court on Tuesday banned transportation of coal in Meghalaya and pulled up the state government for failing to curb its illegal mining.
The ban on the transportation of coal was of significance in the wake of a coal mine tragedy in the state in December. Fifteen miners are trapped inside an illegal 370-feet flooded coal mine at Ksan village in East Jaintia Hills district for the past one month now.
A Supreme Court bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and S. Abdul Nazeer questioned the state government on the steps taken to prevent illegal coal mining despite the ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
The bench also directed the state government to file a report on the present status of illegal coal mining, including cases registered against illegal mining.
On the plea moved by various petitioners for transportation of coal, the apex court noted there would be not be any transportation of coal lying on the sites till the next hearing fixed on February 19.
The apex court had allowed transportation of the extracted and assessed coal from December 4, 2018 to January 31, 2019. The extracted coal yet to be transported is 1,76, 655 metric tonnes.
Reacting to the Court's order, Leader of Opposition in the Meghalaya Assembly, Mukul Sangma held Chief Minister Conrad Sangma responsible for the government's failure to stop illegal coal mining.
"Today's (Tuesday) order of the Supreme Court shows that for the first time in the history of India, this court could no longer trust a state government and the leadership (Conrad Sangma) has to be held responsible," Mukul Sangma said.
"With this exposure, the leadership does not have both the moral and the legal right to continue in office," he said.
Meanwhile, scientists from National Geophysical Research Institute conducted electrical resistivity tomography survey for the second day in a row at Ksan village where the miners are trapped inside a flooded mine.
Rescue Operations spokesperson Reginald Susngi said that Coal India Limited and Odisha firefighters continued de-watering the abandoned shafts of the coal mines near the main shaft where the miners have been trapped.
The Indian Navy operated its underwater remotely vehicle (UROV) for 15 hours inside the old shaft to survey and sanitize the shaft, he said.
Kirloskar Brothers Ltd has shifted high-capacity pump to another shaft to allow the Indian Navy to operate their UROV freely without any obstruction, Susngi said.
The tragedy came to light after five miners escaped the coal pit.
The Supreme Court, monitoring the rescue operations, has directed the government that the trapped miners have to be taken out of the coal mine "dead or alive".