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Mining haste miffs Agatha

Shillong, Oct. 18: The Union minister of state for rural development, Agatha Sangma, has asked the Meghalaya government to go slow on the uranium mining project saying opinions of all sections of people should be taken into account before going ahead with it.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Agatha said as land was precious for the indigenous people, the government should not take any hasty decision on starting the project.

The statement of Agatha from the Nationalist Congress Party, which is supporting the UPA government at the Centre, assumed significance in the context of claim of chief minister D.D. Lapang that the Union government was prepared to mine uranium in the state at any time.

According to the minister, even if the mining takes a very long time, the government should continue its effort to hold dialogues with the indigenous people before arriving at any conclusion.

There are criticisms from many quarters that the chief minister is in a hurry to allow the UCIL to carry out the pre-development projects, which in turn will facilitate uranium mining. “The identity of the indigenous people of the state is their land and the government should not do anything which can jeopardise their interest,” Agatha said.

The agreement with the UCIL at present is that the villagers will lease the land required for uranium mining for 30 years. According to the minister, taking away the precious land of the people for uranium mining will be insensitivity.

“The people should be convinced whether the mining will ultimately bring out any benefits to them and the government should make efforts in this regard even it if takes time,” Agatha said.

To a question on whether the Centre will use force to mine uranium from the West Khasi Hills district, she said diplomacy and dialogue were the best means to solve any problem. The question is not on whether the Centre will use force or whether there will be health hazards, the basic issue to be addressed is the alienation of the precious land of the people, the minister said.

Asked why the state government is in a hurry to mine uranium, Sangma said, “I am not privy to the inside story or internal politics.” Earlier, the state NCP had also asked the state government not to take any hasty decision on uranium mining and the pre-development projects by suggesting that the matter should have been discussed in the all-party committee on uranium.

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