Sound of gushing wind have been haunting Saheb Ali for last two weeks.
The 21-year-old survivor of the Meghalaya mining tragedy has failed to sleep for last two weeks. Trying to cope up with the tragedy at his home at remote Bhangnamari village in western Assam’s Chirang district, Saheb could recount what happened on the fateful day.
“There were 22 people including me in the mine. The mine was about 380 feet deep. While 18 of us went to the ground (ground is the place inside the mine from where workers go to different chambers to cut the coal) down below 380 feet, four others remained at the top. We halted at the ground and went to different chambers in groups. While others were busy cutting the coal I was assigned to pull the coal laden carts,” said Saheb.
“We started work around 5.30 am that day. However, around 7.30 am when I was pulling one of the carts to the ground, I suddenly felt some cold wind, which is not common, followed by sound of gushing water. I could not even think what to do. Next moment I saw water gushing and blocking the chambers,” said Saheb.
When Saheb somehow managed to came up, he found three others from his village—Saher Islam (24), Amir Hussain (27) and Monirul Islam (20).
“I don’t know what to do now. That (Dec 13) was our payment day. But the incident took place and I am yet to receive the payment,” he said adding that he could manage to come back home only after his brother arrived there after hearing about the tragedy.
Saheb and many others who work in the rat hole mines of Meghalaya know that there is risk in working in the mines but they don’t have many options before them. One could earn upto Rs. 3000 a day while working in the mines—many times more than they can earn while working as daily wage labourers elsewhere.
“I have been working in Ksan for last four to five months. I am supposed to get around Rs. 15,000 for a week’s work. I don’t know whether I’ll get the money or not,” said Saheb.
The survivor further informed that apart from him there were about nine youths from Assam, three local Khasi youths and two Nepali youths who were working in the mines. “
“I don’t think they are alive. But at least the government must take out the bodies so that families can perform the rituals,” he said while sobbing.
Saheb condemned that no one from the Assam government had even gone there to take stock of the situation.
The BJP-led government in Assam is yet to send any representative to the spot even if media reported that there were youths from Assam who had been working in the mine at Ksan. Mining is not a legal activity in Meghalaya that should not be a ground for any government to shed its responsibility for its people.