New Delhi, January 11: It’s been a month now but the 15 trapped miners are still not rescued, upon the unsuccessful efforts of Meghalaya Government, the Supreme Court division bench of Justices A K Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer, today, expressing its compassion towards trapped labourers in a 370 foot deep illegal mine in East Jaintia Hills since December 13, said that, “We do not know if they are dead or alive. But miracles can happen. So we have to keep trying until we have some result.”
The Meghalaya government also informed the court that the Indian Navy has deployed five remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) in the rescue operation.
It is also to be noted that until now only two bodies have been recovered.
In order to have a check upon government’s actions taken against those running illegal mines, the bench asked the government, “What are you doing against people involved in illegal mining there?”
In riposte to the court’s question, Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing on the behalf of Centre, informed the court that one person, who is running the illegal mine was arrested and also told that “every possible step has been taken for the rescue operation; the air force has deployed planes and helicopters for airlifting requisite equipment and manpower”.
According to the sources, rescuers managed to pump out 2.1 crore litres of water from the mines until Thursday by using pumps from Coal India Ltd, Kirloskar Brothers Ltd and the Odisha Fire Service but the leakage from the nearby river continued to hinder operations.
On the sidelines, the apex court is hearing a PIL filed by Aditya N. Prasad who has sought urgent steps to rescue 15 miners trapped in the illegal coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district.
Earlier this month, in course of delay in the rescue work, the top court had pointed out the Centre and had sought a detailed report from it.
The court had also expressed dissatisfaction over the progress in the rescue operation, and asked the centre to look into it considering its “urgency” and said it was “a question of life and death” for those trapped.
Despite the National green tribunal (NGT) ban since 2014, there is an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya. The NGT has asked the state government to deposit to the Central Pollution Control Board the amount of Rs. 100 crore towards restoring the environment after a panel headed by Justice (retd) BK Katakey found large-scale violations of a coal mining ban in Meghalaya.
The next date for further hearing is on January 18.