The Meghalaya government Saturday announced an interim relief of Rs 1 lakh each to the families of the 15 miners trapped in an illegal rat-hole coal mine and sought high power submersible pumps from the Coal India Ltd to rescue them.
The coal mine is located in East Jaintia Hills district of the state and the miners have been trapped there since December 13. The relief was announced as per directions of the National Green Tribunal Committee (NGT), a state government official said.
The NGT committee, during a meeting with state government officials Thursday, had asked them to pay compensation to the next of kin of all the miners who have either been injured or killed in the incident. “We have announced an interim relief of Rs 1 lakh for the families of the trapped miners,” said Deputy Commissioner of East Jaintia Hills district F M Dopth.
He said the government gave the approval Friday night and notices were sent to the family members of the miners through their respective police stations.
Superintendent of Police (SP) of East Jaintia Hills district Sylvester Nongtynger said that seven of the trapped labourers hail from West Garo Hills district, five from Assam and three from the remote Langthari village, where the accident took place.
On December 13, around 20 labourers entered the 370-foot mine at about 8 AM. After reaching the bottom of the pit, they entered the horizontal manholes, often termed as ‘rat-holes’, as each just about fits one person to get in. According to villagers, one of the diggers could have accidentally punctured the walls of the cave and the river water gushed in immediately, trapping the miners inside. Only five persons managed to climb out of the mine. Of them, two are locals and police are after the remaining three who had fled to West Garo Hills district.
About 100 rescue personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and the state police are involved in the rescue operation at the site.
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.