Burdwan: To bring people engaged in illegal extraction of coal from abandoned coal pits into mainstream, the district authorities have launched a number of schemes under the MGNREGA in Burdwan district.
Burdwan District Magistrate Saumitra Mohan said that the schemes, taken up in nine blocks in the Asansol, Durgapur sub-divisions, had already succeeded in bringing down the number of coal theft cases.
The projects are related to land development and filling-up of abandoned coal pits/rat holes, which often acted as death traps for local people who stole coal for sale to private companies at a price below the market rate.
"What happens often, land subsidence occurs due to unbridled mining trapping the illegal coal miners, including children," he said.
Mohan said that the schemes under the MGNREGA required people to fill up these death traps with earth and sand, earning them in the process a decent income.
Many of these abandoned coal mines are used for assorted purposes of fishery and irrigation, he said.
Social forestry schemes were taken up to prevent soil erosion and land subsidence, which not only helped improve local ecology and environment, but also turned a mono-crop land into multi-crop.
A total of 1,068 schemes were launched under social forestry in the region, the DM said, adding another 1,720 schemes relating to water conservation and water harvesting were also taken up.
The DM said, "That the schemes have produced significant result is clear by the decrease in the number of thefts. While 1,114 coal theft cases were recorded in the previous financial year, only 438 such cases were registered in the current financial year."