The recent decision of the government to introduce railways in East Jaintia Hills instead of East Khasi Hills has raised eyebrows and fuelled speculations about a hidden agenda behind the move. Allegations of bribery and the influence of corrupt businessmen have surfaced, pointing towards a conspiracy to obstruct the development of railways in East Khasi Hills. This article examines the various aspects of this alleged conspiracy and sheds light on the potential consequences.
Vested interests and bribery
Vested businessmen with ulterior motives have resorted to influencing some groups to oppose the introduction of railways in East Khasi Hills. These unscrupulous individuals primarily operate in Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya, where they take advantage of the unsuspecting tribal population by selling commodities at inflated prices.
Exploitation of Meghalaya’s hill state status
These corrupt businessmen exploit Meghalaya’s status as a hill state to unjustly increase the prices of essential commodities. Despite the presence of a four-lane highway that should have facilitated the transportation of goods at lower costs, the price difference between Meghalaya and neighbouring Assam remains significant. It is alleged that the introduction of railways in Khasi Hills would eliminate the justification for these exorbitant transportation costs, causing a loss to the profit margins of these vested businessmen.
Railways as a solution
The implementation of railways in East Khasi Hills has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of goods and bring them in line with prices seen in other states of India. This prospect threatens the profit margins of those benefiting from inflated prices, leading to an alleged resort to bribery to halt the entry of railways into the region.
The government of Meghalaya has been complicit in blocking railways from entering East Khasi Hills. In 2005, the state government passed a resolution opposing the construction of a railway line through the hills.
Diversion to EJH and the coal connection
Having succeeded in obstructing the railways from entering East Khasi Hills, the government has made the decision to bring it to East Jaintia Hills instead. However, suspicions arise regarding the true motives behind this move. Some suggest that the diversion to Jaintia Hills is driven by a hidden agenda to transport illegal coal on a large scale through the railways. Critics argue that this decision does not serve the development of markets or the reduction of high commodity prices, but rather benefits the coal mafia.
Govt’s ties to coal barons
Critics of the government argue that it is heavily influenced by the coal industry, with key positions in the state cabinet held by coal barons. This alignment raises concerns about the true intentions of the government in diverting the railways to East Jaintia Hills. Critics argue that the move aims to enrich themselves through coal mining rather than focusing on the overall economic development of Meghalaya.
There were several reports which indicate foul play in the entire coal nexus that is active in the state.
In 2019, the Meghalaya High Court found that the state government had been “nurturing” illegal coal mine operators.
In 2020, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered a CBI probe into allegations that the state government was involved in illegal coal mining and transportation.
In 2021, the Meghalaya Police seized a large quantity of illegally mined coal from a truck that was allegedly being transported with the knowledge of government officials.
In 2022, the Meghalaya High Court expressed concern over the unabated illegal mining and transportation of coal in the state.
Potential negative impacts on Meghalaya
The decision to bring railways to East Jaintia Hills, if driven by the coal mafia, could have detrimental consequences for the state. Meghalaya recently re-legalised coal mining under the condition of implementing scientific mining practices. However, there are concerns that the Chief Minister’s statements about the gradual implementation of scientific mining imply a potential return to environmentally destructive rat hole mining. Critics argue that by the time scientific mining is fully implemented, Meghalaya’s coal deposits may be exhausted, leaving the state environmentally degraded and economically barren.
Amidst allegations of bribery, vested interests, and corruption, the government’s decision to divert railways from East Khasi Hills to East Jaintia Hills raises serious concerns. Critics argue that the government’s actions serve the interests of a select few, rather than the public at large. They contend that the railway diversion is a means to exploit coal resources on a larger scale, under the pretext of scientific mining. The consequences of such a move could be dire for Meghalaya’s environment and future economic prospects.