Meghalaya cement cos extract 17.64 lakh MT of limestone sans approval
Topcem Cement, which one of the ‘biggest contributors’ to BJP’s election campaign fund, ‘illegally’ extracted 4.34 lakh MT of limestone in Meghalaya. Topcem Cement, Star Cement and Amrit Cement, the three cement producers in East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya, had contributed Rs 4.22 crore to the BJP in 2018-2019.
Topcem Cement had paid Rs 1.38 crores to the BJP’s election fund, while Star Cement paid Rs 2.68 crores, and Amrit Cement paid Rs 21 lakh. Unfortunately, it has been found that Topcem Cement, which ‘funded’ BJP’s election, extracted huge quality of limestone without mandatory clearances.
Limestone is listed as a second schedule mineral and the rate of royalty is fixed by the Central Government. In Meghalaya, limestone was listed as a minor forest produce.
Royalty on limestone is collected by both Forest and Mining Departments. The Forest Department collects royalty on limestone extracted from forest areas, whereas the Mining Department collects royalty on limestone from non-forest (leased) areas.
Additionally, the Mining Department realised mineral concession cess on limestone under the provisions of the Meghalaya Mineral Cess Act. Sources said Meghalaya government was caught on the wrong foot for not realizing huge arrears of revenue (royalty and cess) from some of the cement companies.