Karbi Anglong’s Illegal Coal Mining Stirs Controversy

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Illegal Excavation of Karbi Anglong Coal And Illicit Marketing

Smuggling of substandard soft coal from Karbi Anglong district of Assam to neighboring Nagaland on a regular basis has drawn flak from several civil societies.

On 29th November at the initiative of a student organization, Bokajan police seized six trucks of coal bound for Dimapur city in Nagaland, but later released the trucks for some mysterious reason.

“It’s a known fact that the Supreme Court of India has put a blanket ban on irregular coal mining and particularly in Karbi Anglong. The Ministry of Geology and Mining has not issued any order for exploitation of coal from any coal deposit, yet every day, almost 6 to 7 trucks each with a minimum load of 20 tons of coal is smuggled to Nagaland from Koilajan locality under Delai police station in the Bokajan subdivision,” Soraj Mahanta, a Bokajan journalist said.

It is alleged that an organized coal syndicate has formed in Karbi Anglong under the patronage of Anil Gupta, a resident of Bakuliaghat, a small town 60 kilometers from Diphu. Alil Gupta began his humble carrier buniness as a sand excavation overseer in a private farm, but suspiciously after his association with coal dealings his financial status raised phenomenally.

coal mining in india
Coal mining in north east India

According to a number of local people of Bakuliaghat, Gupta’s fortune made a meteoric rise after obtaining 100 tons of confiscated coal from the Forest department by depositing auction value against M/S Parbat Anglong Society. Gupta also received permission for carrying the seized coal from the Geology and Mining department Assam vide letter no GM/MM/158/6365-24/2.

Allegedly the settlement order for lifting the quantity of confiscated coal from government custody provided him a kind of legitimacy for collecting coal from illegal mining and transportation since 2006. The same permission for carrying the seized coal is paying him a bonus as an all transit pass for consignments of coal he despatched from Karbi Anglong to Nagaland. This came about on the basis of the settlement order for 100 tons of coal.

It is also claimed by some that Gupta’s coal is despatched from Karbi Anglong to Nagaland on the strength of a Transit Pass issued by coal mine authority of Uri-am Ghat, Golaghat district and Assam Mineral Development Corporation operated coal field situated in Umrangso area of Dima Hasao district.

A highly placed Karbi Anglong Forest official is of the view that to smuggle one ton of soft coal from Karbi Anglong to Nagaland costs around Rs 2000/- and sells at Rs. 5,700/-. At this rate, the take home profit of the syndicate’s king pin is close to 1 crore 35 lakhs rupees per month.

According to this official, the low grade soft coal is generally useful for increasing the volume of good coal excavated from collieries located in the high altitude areas of Nagaland and Meghalaya. The soft coal purchased at cheaper rate is mixed with the hard coal, this is a common practice of coal miners and dealers.

Until now, neither the Forest authority nor the competent authority of Mines and Mineral have taken any realistic step to stop illegal excavation of Karbi Anglong’s coal and its illicit marketing by organized gang.

Sushanta Roy is a journalist in Assam, India, who photographs and writes about the people, animals and flora of Assam, and the things that affect them.