Few family members of Meghalaya miners have written to the local administration saying that they have no objection if operation to retrieve the bodies is called off.
Reports quoted the local administration as saying that heavy rain in the area since the past week is “adversely affecting” the operation.
On December 13, 2018, 15 miners died at an illegally run rat hole mine at Ksan in East Jaintia hills district of Meghalaya.
On April 16 last, state revenue and disaster management minister Kyrmen Sylla told media persons that the Supreme Court would be informed about the letter received from the victims’ families.
Sylla said more families are likely to send letters to the deputy commissioner to “call off the operation”.
Chief minister Conrad Sangma has said that the state government would appeal to the top court to call off the operation. Despite the December 13 tragedy and a ban by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Supreme Court, mining continues merrily in East Jaintia Hills.
Recently, the media was full of news on how huge heaps of freshly mined coal was sighted at Khrielihat, the district headquarters town.
It is alleged that the powers that be and the local coal owners’ lobby are in cahoots to ensure that illegal mining continues.
On April 11 last, the NGT recommended adopting an electronic system to regulate the movement of trucks carrying coal illegally.
For the uninitiated, the operation to retrieve the bodies of the ill-fated miners was a multiagency rescue operation involving the Indian Navy, National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF), State Disaster Relief Force (SDRF) and Odisha Fire Services personnel at different points. The operation has been continuing since December 13 last.
However, the Indian Navy was called back following the Pulwama attack on February 14 this year when the country was in a heightened state of tension.
Few reports state that at least 16 to 17 miners were caught in a mine over 300 feet deep in the district’s Ksan village.
The multiagency operation is being monitored by the apex court. However, only a team comprising NDRF and SDRF and Coal India Limited is presently at site conducting the operation. Even the Odisha Fire Service personnel have gone back.
So far, two of the victims’ bodies have been fished out of the deep pits filled with water believed to have breached the mine from a nearby river.
High speed pumps are pumping out hundreds of litres of water daily from the shafts. In January, the Meghalaya government hinted that it wants to call off the operation, but the top court asked it to continue.