SHILLONG, April 16: Those who are engaged in producing and circulating counterfeit Mineral Transport Challans (MTCs) will face exemplary action from the state government as has been assured by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma on Monday.
“The government is committed to pursue all the cases so far registered and speed up the investigative work so as to ensure that the culprits are brought to book and such criminal activities are stopped,” Conrad told the Assembly here on Monday.
Replying to the call attention moved by Congress legislator from Mawsynram, Himalaya M Shangpliang, Conrad also assured that necessary enquiries will be conducted to ascertain the source of such fake MTCs and exemplary action will be taken against the defaulters.
He informed that counterfeit challans have been detected in Dainadubi checkgate, North Garo Hills, Mawpun Checkgate, West Khasi Hills, and Shangbangla Checkgate, Ri Bhoi District.
The Mines Royalty Inspector in charge of the respective check gates has filed complaints and First Information Reports (FIR) against the defaulters and cases have been registered against such culprits under relevant sections of the IPC.
Bulk detection was made at the Divisional Mining Office, Jowai when a person in possession of 100 MTCs without realizing that the challans were fake came for revalidation of the challans at the office of the DMO, Jowai.
The DMO, Jowai immediately took custody of the fake Challans and in this connection, an FIR was lodged by the victim in possession of the counterfeit Challans at Mawlai Police Station.
Conrad also said that the government is seeking a status report on the outcome of the investigations in all such police cases and efforts will be intensified to locate the source of the counterfeit MTCs.
“The Government is of course duly seized of the magnitude of the problem and the negative impact of counterfeiting of MTCs in terms of loss of revenue to the Government, emergence of profiteers and the scope for illegal coal activities,” he said.
He also informed that the government has also convened an emergent meeting on April 12, to discuss on appropriate course of action.
Stating the several measures are being proposed to be taken by the government, Conrad said these include reviewing and streamlining the administrative processes and procedures currently in place for issuance of the MTCs.
“(The government) is also mulling the introduction of enhanced security features apart from the hologram like implementation of barcode with hologram, tamper evident hologram with DNA based with hand held tagging detectors used for product authentication and verification of genuine product chemical which would go a long way in improving the existing system.”
Informing that counterfeit MTCs being used by unscrupulous coal transporters has engaged the government for a long time, he said that stringent measures have been taken from time to time to contain such malpractices.
“The introduction of holograms on the Challans as one of the security features has helped in the detection of fake challans and has been a deterrent to a great extent against such offences by the coal transporters,” he added.
With the introduction of this security feature, Conrad said that a number of counterfeit challans have been detected since holograms are difficult to forge as they require expensive, specialized and technologically advanced equipment.
The staff and officers in charge of the check gates are well oriented with the security feature and are able to easily authenticate the genuineness of the MTCs and in most cases are able to detect any fake challans submitted by the coal transporters during spot checking at the check gates.
“Necessary instructions and directions are issued to the field officers to remain vigilant against such practices and file FIRs immediately when such cases are detected,” he said.
The mining and transportation of coal in Meghalaya has stopped following the ongoing ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal since April 17, 2014.
However, as there is huge quantity of extracted coal lying in different areas of the State, the NGT felt that these extracted stock of coal has potential to further degrade the environment and hence decided to allow transportation under certain laid down procedures.
Transportation of coal is permitted on payment of royalty and MEPRF and a permit known as the Mineral Transport Challan is issued to the transporter. MTCs have obtained very high value in recent times since coal stock is dwindling, according to Conrad.