It's been one month after 15 miners have been trapped in an illegal rat-hole coal mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district. Scientists and top agencies arrived in the East Jaintia Hills to step up rescue efforts. However, the chances of their rescue continue to remain bleak as dewatering the mine has so far been a futile effort.
Speaking to PTI, Operation spokesperson R Susngi said that a team headed by a scientist and comprising experts from Hyderabad-based National Geophysical Research Institute, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (NGIR-CSIR) and Gravity and Magnetic Group, was at the spot.
Besides, a team each from the Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and Chennai-based Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) have arrived to step up the mission, he said.
Till date, the dewatering of the 370-foot-deep mine where the miners are trapped has proved futile as over 1 crore litres of water has been pumped out of the main shaft in the past one month, but there has been no visible change in the water level, the official said.
Another 2 crore plus litres of water was pumped out from the nearby abandoned mines suspected to be connected to the mine where the miners are trapped, but the rescuers are clueless 'how' and 'where' the water is coming from, he said.
In the Khloo-Ryngksan area, where the ill-fated mine is located at the western side of a small hillock, the Lytein river crisscross the valley for over 2 km.
Experts have been visiting the spot since December 20 for rescuing the miners after the news broke out at the national level, but the huge water level inside has foiled all their efforts.
Susngi said senior scientist of CSIR-NGRI Devashish Kumar and his team have arrived for the operation. Another scientist from the Gravity and Magnetic Group, Niraj Kumar and his team too arrived as have Jayanti Gogoi of GPR and Vineet Upadhyay, who is heading the team of operators of the ROV from Chennai.
A team from Pune-based KSB has also arrived at the site and work is in progress to install another high power pump at the site, he said.
The teams have been joined by about 200 people from different agencies of the Government of India, including Indian Navy and NDRF, besides Coal India Ltd and Kirloskar Brothers Ltd.
The Supreme Court which is monitoring the rescue efforts has directed the authorities to step up their efforts and bring out the miners 'dead or alive'.
A citizens forum here associated with RTI activist Agnes Kharshiinz has approached the Supreme Court for a complete ban on coal mining in the state, saying there has been an "absolute" loss in terms of revenue from the industry and that all indices in the mining district are down with 76 per cent of people being landless.
Forum leader Angela Rangad said Sunday there were 24,626 coal mines in the district - about 52 mines/sq km at different stages of mining.
The forum alleged collusion between the state government and the illegal coal miners wherein the courts and the NGT were misled on several occasions on the total amount of extracted coal waiting to be transported.
"This is evident from the fact that out of the 57 months (since May 2014 when the ban was enforced), the NGT and the Supreme Court has allowed 32 months of transportation.
Where did so much untransported coal come from?" Rangad said.
"We have requested the court to issue direction to the state government to confiscate all untransported coal and use it in public undertaking factories," she said.
The report has been submitted to the Supreme Court for its perusal in Tuesday's hearing, the forum leader said and hoped that the judiciary would take cognisance of the evidence put forth in the 600-page report of the citizen's forum.
The National Green Tribunal had put a blanket ban on this type of mining since May 2014 as it said it was unscientific and put the life of miners at risk.
An interim relief of Rs 1 lakh has been offered to the family members of the trapped miners, officials said.
The mine owner, Krip Chullet, was arrested on December 14 while two of his accomplices are still on the run, Superintendent of Police Sylvester Nongtynger said.
Kharshiing, who narrowly escaped attempts on her life by coal mafia on November 8 last, Sunday demanded that the attack case be handed over to the CBI.
Eight out of the nine persons involved in masterminding the attack have been arrested so far, police said.
The arrested include Nidamon Chullet, the district leader of the ruling National Peoples Party, they added.
(With PTI inputs)