Plea to check illegal mining

Wasim Rahman

Jorhat, Dec. 5: The Tinsukia district administration in Assam has requested additional security forces for its coal belt along the Arunachal Pradesh border to check illegal mining in which militants groups are reportedly getting increasingly involved.

In a recent missive, the administration urged Dispur to request the Centre to spare at least three companies of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which would be hired by the Coal India Ltd (CIL) to check the organised racket.

If CISF is not available, then the services of the Assam Industrial Security Force (AISF) should be made available on a hire basis, it added.

The request comes in the wake of intelligence inputs that militant groups like Ulfa, NSCN factions and Maoists are getting involved in the lucrative coal trade and the slush funds earned is a major source of "sustaining insurgency".

The report said illegal coal mining, which is an organised crime involving many players, is not only costing the government exchequer crores of rupees but is also a matter of national security. Hence more forces are required to deal with it.

The administration urged Dispur to take up the matter with Union home and coal ministries on an urgent basis so that the menace can be tackled in full throttle.

The administration said it has taken a series of measures over the past eight months to crack down on illegal mining with the help of police, forest, sales tax, excise and transport departments as well as the CIL. It said earlier this year it had asked the CIL to hire the services of CISF or AISF to guard its assets and movements related to its mining operation but this has not materialised so far.

The CIL has open cast mining in four places ' Tikok, Tirap, Tipong and Borgulai ' in Margherita subdivision, which shares a 120km boundary with Arunachal Pradesh. There are no legal coalfields in Arunachal Pradesh.

The report also calls for a platoon (about 30 men) of Assam police as a quick reaction team under Tinsukia superintendent of police to be deployed in Margherita coal belt to deal with illegal coal trade on an emergency basis. At present the security of the coal belt is entrusted to homeguards armed with .303 rifles.

Coal is illegally mined in the hilly forest areas on both sides of the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border and transported to Assam to be sold in the state or outside, the report said. Some amount of this coal lands up in the coke units of Margherita as well for developing it into coke. These coke units pose a big threat to the environment of the area.

The report says the Assam sales tax department has set up a checkpoint at Jagun near the inter-state border to check transportation of illegal coal across the boundary and to close down illegal coke bhattas (units) in the Ledo area. It is planning to set up another checkpoint at Golai in the subdivision.