Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma on Monday said that the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has been asked to reach out to any technically sound people who are specialized to come and help in the operations to rescue the 13 miners, who have been trapped in East Jaiñtia Hills district since December 13.
The Chief Minister who reiterated that there was no illegal mining in as far as the Government is concerned, admitted that the incident that has taken place was due to illegal mining, even as he stated that “it is impossible for police and the administrations to keep watch over the entire stretch of Jaiñtia Hills, Khasi Hills and Garo Hills”.
“I have been maintaining that there is no illegal coal mining, and I stick to that point. As far as the Government is concerned, there is no question of illegal mining, and we cannot allow it,” Conrad said here on Monday.
Stating that the State is big and the location of the coal mine in East Jaiñtia Hills district is around 30 km away from the main road, Conrad said that it was next to impossible for police personnel to find out that something illegal was going on.
“It is impossible for police and the administrations to keep watch over the entire stretch of Jaiñtia Hills, Khasi Hills and Garo Hills. But whenever information or complaint comes to us about illegal mining, action is taken. As I said, there was no normal process of illegal mining going on anywhere. These kind of activities are difficult to catch because the area is so vast. But anybody who is caught and involved in illegal activity, we will take strict action,” he said.
Referring to the arrest of one of the coal mine owners, Jrin alias Krip Chulet, the CM said that the person involved has been arrested and action will be taken against anybody involved in this illegal activity.
Talking about the difficulty being faced by the operation teams to rescue the miners, the CM said that the NDRF and district administration and police have been trying very hard but they are also struggling because of the water level in the coal pit is very high.
“Water is being pumped out continuously and more pumps are being used. But the inflow is so much and water could be brought down to the level where divers can go in and search,” he said.
Conrad said that he had also spoken with Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju and requested him to send more professionals, divers and equipment.
“People from all over have joined the rescue operations. The NDRF and SDRF have been continuously trying their best, and we are hoping for the best to save them but it is a very difficult situation. No matter how many pumps they are putting in, but could not bring down the water to the level in order to enter and rescue the miners. Operation is on but it a very difficult situation,” he said.
On the chance of survival, the CM said he cannot say on this, but only prays and hopes that they would be rescued.
On the need to call in the Oil Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to deploy ‘submersible water pumps’ to reduce the water level, Conrad said that the NRDF was asked to reach out to any technically sound people who are specialized in this sector to come and help in the operation.