03 Jan 2019
'Dead or alive, get them out': SC on Meghalaya miners
With more three weeks having elapsed, the Supreme Court, on Thursday, expressed dissatisfaction with the rescue efforts to find and rescue 15 miners who have been trapped in a rat hole coal mine in Meghalaya since December 13.
Hearing a petition seeking stepping up of rescue efforts, the Supreme Court said that miners should be taken out, "dead or alive".
SC questions why Army has not been roped in
While hearing the petition, a clearly dissatisfied Supreme Court asked why the Army had not been roped into the rescue operation which, for days, got delayed by bureaucratic red tape.
The apex court also sought to issue instructions to the Center to step up efforts.
"We pray to God that all [of the miners] are alive," said the SC.
Disaster befell the miners on December 13
The mine in question is located in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district, near the Lytein river in Ksan village.
Reportedly, the miners started work on the illegal mine on December 11, and got trapped on December 13 when water from the Lytein river gushed in and flooded the mine.
It's believed that the miners accidentally breached an old, flooded mine, leading to the disaster.
Initial efforts to pump out water had proved ineffective
Subsequently, after two weeks of ineffective efforts to pump out water from the flooded mine, the Indian Air Force, on December 28, transported heavy-duty pumps from Coal India to help with the operation.
A team of 20 personnel from the Odisha Fire Services also joined in on the operation, and subsequently, a team of 18 divers from the Indian Navy were flown in from Visakhapatnam.
Rescue teams are still pumping water out of the mine
Yet, efforts by Indian Navy divers to locate the miners also proved to be ineffective, as the water level in the mine remained too high, and underwater visibility was extremely poor.
Despite multiple efforts by the divers to locate the miners, they were unsuccessful.
As of Wednesday, rescue teams were still engaged in pumping water out of the mine.
There's very little chance of the miners being alive
Given the pace at which rescue operations have proceeded, realistically, there's almost no chance that the miners are still alive.
Further, with every passing hour, whatever little chance they still have diminishes considerably.
The families of the miners, too, have given up hope - they told NDTV that now they only want the bodies of their kin so they can perform their last rites.
Government apathy is to blame for the miners' fate
It should be noted here that the miners might have had a chance if the Meghalaya state government had not been apathetic in its initial response.
From the very first day, rescue operations were marred by poor coordination between agencies, lack of requisite equipment, and days of delay owing to bureaucracy.
Although rescue operations have been stepped up over the last few days, it's a little too late now.
If the miners survive, it'd be nothing short of a miracle.
History repeating itself again?
As unfortunate as it is, this isn't the first incident of this nature.
In 2012, at least 15 people got trapped inside a similar 'rat hole' mine in the South Garo Hills, and their bodies were never found.
Subsequently, in 2014, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned such mines owing to their unscientific nature, and risks involved.
Evidently, the ban wasn't strictly enforced.