The Centre has come down heavily on the illegal coal mining of Upper Assam and demanded the names of all forest departments and Coal India officials since 2003.
“The Central government has confirmed that there is rampant violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 in upper Assam, and as such it has sought the names of all senior forest officers and Coal India officials deployed in those areas since 2003,” a senior forest official said.
This is noteworthy that since 2003, no fresh mining clearance has been given by the government yet the mining was going on in full swing.
In a letter to the State’s Additional Chief Secretary (forest), the DIG (central) of the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) said that site inspection of the project for diversion of 98.59 hectares of forest land for the Tikok Open Cast Project in Saleki forest was carried out in October and after “further field verification it is now certain that there is clear evidence of rampant violation of the FC Act in the site.”
The MoEF directed the State government to furnish the list of officers from the rank of deputy conservator of forest/divisional forest officers to range forest officers from 2003 to 2019 in the area concerned “for further action on the matter”.
The MoEF has also sought the list of officers and their ranks from the general manager and below in the North Eastern Coalfields of Coal India Limited during the same period and wanted to know if any action has been taken by the State government against the violators since 2003.
A recent State government inquiry had also confirmed illegal coal mining in a “huge area” in the Tinkopani-Jagun reserve forest areas which was going on for more than ten years.
In a Parliament reply recently, Union Minister of State for MoEF Babul Supriyo had admitted that illegal coal mining in the form of rat-hole mining has been taking place since long in some of the reserve forests and proposed reserve forests of Digboi forest division. The forests in which such rat-hole mining has been noticed over a period of more than 10 years are Namphai Tipong, Tinkopani Tirap, Tirap Saleki, Tipong, and Lekhapani