In election season, a few dark thoughts in Meghalaya coal belt

FP

Elected representatives from the Jaintia Hills are at the heart of Meghalaya's strong mining lobby. The Lok Sabha member from Shillong, Vincent Pala, one of the biggest coal miners in the state, is from Jowai, headquarters of the district. The network of powerful entrenched interests often works to block out modern and more productive mining practices in the area, several analysts and political observers in the state said.

Paul Lamare, who works for a communications company that produces TV shows in Jowai, said poor levels of literacy frequently acts to the detriment of the region's development.

"Politics here runs on money," Lamare said. "The coal barons and mine owners are millionaires, but many of them don't even know how to sign their name. This is a problem if the winning candidate has to run the administration and represent his people in the assembly."

COAL MATTERS

JAINTIA HILLS coal deposits are in Bapung, Lakadong, Chyrmang, Musiang Lamare, Sutnga, Looksi, Rymbai, Byrwai, Jarain. District rich in limestone, fireclay, phosphorite.

COAL DEPOSITS are found in all seven districts of the state. The ash content is low, and calorific value high; however, a high sulphur content makes it polluting.

TOTAL RESERVES are estimated at about 640 million tonnes, or 1.1 per cent of India's total reserves.

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