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Coal mine mishap: Rights panel takes suo motu action against Meghalaya govt

twitter-logoPTI | December 18, 2018 | Updated 22:02 IST

Shillong, Dec 18 (PTI) Taking cognizance of reports that miners were trapped in a coal mine over the past six days in East Jaintia Hills district, the Meghalaya Human Rights Commission on Tuesday initiated suo motu action against the state government and issued a notice for an enquiry into the disaster. At least 14 miners were trapped on December 13 after water from nearby Lytein river had gushed into the illegal rat-hole mine at Ksan area Lumthari village, a senior official said, adding the exact number of victims could not be ascertained as the mine owners did not maintain a logbook. They are now feared dead as water from the river has been gushing into the 370-feet-deep pit. Aldous Mawlong, the secretary of the rights commission, said, a notice has been issued to chief secretary Y Tsering to cause an effective enquiry into the entire matter and submit a detailed report within 30 days. The commission has also filed a suo motu case against the Meghalaya government seeking compensation for the labourers trapped in the mine, he told PTI. Justice Aftab Hussain Saikia, the chairperson of the commission, has taken strong exception to the fact that illegal mining has been continuing in the state despite NGT ban, Mawlong added. In 2014, the National Green Tribunal had imposed a ban in Meghalaya on rat-hole coal mining, a technique that entails digging small vertical pits to reach the mineral pockets. Meanwhile, the search operation launched to trace trapped miners in took a hit on Tuesday due to strong winds and heavy rain, police said. A top police officer said the exact number of miners trapped inside the pit is yet to be ascertained. "With the identification of one more victim, the number of trapped miners rose to 14. As the mine operators did not maintain a log book, it is difficult to ascertain the exact figure," Superintendent of Police (SP) S Nongtynger told PTI. One person, identified as Krip Chullet, has been arrested so far pertaining to the case. Chullet was allegedly involved in hiring labourers, overseeing the work and sending them down the shaft. The SP said "incessant rainfall affected Tuesday's operations as the approach road leading to the mine was not accessible". The administration is planning to deploy more pumps to flush out water from the mine, he said. "Only two pumps were in service today. Authorities are planning to use more pumps as there was no sign of dip in the water level. Divers can get in only after the water level subsides," Nongtynger said. The National Disaster Response Force teams, which are involved in the rescue operation, along with the Meghalaya Disaster Response Force, have suggested the district administration to ask the Oil Natural Gas Corporation to deploy submersible water pumps to reduce the water level. The Meghalaya government on Monday sought the Union Home Ministry's help to rescue the miners. "I have spoken to the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju and requested him to send in more professional teams and the best equipment they have," Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma told mediapersons on the sidelines of a programme here. The union minister, he had said, has taken up the matter with experts and soon more assistance would arrive at the accident site.PTI JOP RMS RCJ

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