Shillong: The ruling NPP-BJP in Meghalaya on Wednesday contested Congress president Rahul Gandhi's jibe on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over 15 labourers trapped in a coal mine, saying the state government is making efforts to rescue them. In a sharp attack against Modi, the Congress chief said 15 labourers trapped in the mine in Meghalaya since December 13 struggled for air while he strutted about on Assam's Bogibeel Bridge posing for cameras.
The prime minister inaugurated the bridge on Brahmaputra river Tuesday. Rahul also urged Modi to organise high-pressure pumps for the rescue of the miners over media reports that the operation to rescue them is hampered due to lack of equipment. Meghalaya chief minister Conrad K Sangma, without mentioning Rahul's comment, said there is no inaction and that the administration and the NDRF had really worked hard to trace the miners, but, unfortunately, the operation did not yield any result.
So far, 12 lakh litres of water has been pumped out of the mine, but it seems the whole river has gushed into the pit. Getting high-powered pumps and transporting them to the site of the mishap is not an easy task, he told a private news. On if the rescue operation could be called off under such circumstances, Sangma said there is no question of aborting the rescue work. The chief minister also hoped that the high-powered pumps would be available soon.
Sangma-led NPP's ally in the state, the BJP, also said the Meghalaya government is doing its best under the chief minister's leadership to bring the victims out of the rat-hole mine in East Jaintia Hills district. "The government has done and is doing its best under Sangma. We have full faith in him. He has taken up the matter with the central government to send bigger pumps," BJP minister AL Hek told PTI. The state government tried its best but water at the mine has not receded, he said.
The chief minister has written to Coal India requesting for the high-powered pumps, the BJP leader said.
East Jaintia Hills Deputy Commissioner F M Dopth said district authorities have taken up the matter with the state government and is awaiting a response.
The high-powered pumps, as advised by ace mining mishap expert Jaswant Singh Gill, are not available in the entire North East region, as far as we are aware, Dopth told PTI. Dopth, who ordered temporary suspension of rescue operation last Saturday, said until the bigger pumps are made available, the operations cannot resume.
Congress spokesperson H M Shangpliang told PTI that with Rahul's intervention, "we hope the Centre will direct the state government to change its insensitive attitude and do what is necessary to help save lives".
He said a special team of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) will soon visit the site at Lumthari village and will try and meet the affected families. However, a senior member of the ruling National Peoples Party (NPP) criticised the Congress, saying the Opposition party was creating a "fuss" over the entire 13 December episode.
"The Congress has forgotten what happened in 2012 when it abandoned the 14 miners who were trapped when a mine collapsed in South Garo Hills. Then the UPA and the Congress were in power. What have they done?" the NPP leader said, requesting anonymity.
"The chief minister is taking special interest in this case and is trying to retrieve the miners dead or alive," he said. In the 2012 case, none of the victims could be retrieved out of the mine and "I do not remember compensation was paid to any of the affected families by the then Congress government," the NPP leader said.
Updated Date: Dec 26, 2018 21:43:10 IST