'Trapped Meghalaya miners should be brought out dead or alive': Supreme Court pulls up state govt over plight of workers

The Supreme Court on Thursday pulled up the Meghalaya government over the plight of the 15 miners who have been trapped in a rat hole coal mine since 13 December. A bench of justices AK Sikri and Abdul Nazeer expressed its displeasure over the inadequate steps taken by the state to rescue the workers in the flooded quarry, The Leaflet reported.

 Trapped Meghalaya miners should be brought out dead or alive: Supreme Court pulls up state govt over plight of workers

File image of the Supreme Court. AP

"We are not satisfied. It is a question of life and death," the judges said. "No matter whether they are all dead, some alive, few dead or all alive, they should be taken out. We pray to God they are alive."

The 15 miners have been trapped in a 370-feet deep illegal mine in Lumthari village since 13 December, when water from the nearby Lytein river flooded the quarry. Though three helmets have been retrieved, at least seven of the miners' families have already given up hope of the miners being rescued alive. They have requested the government to retrieve the bodies to conduct the last rites.

The Supreme Court has asked the Meghalaya government to spell out the measures it is taking to rescue the miners and whether the state is collaborating with the Centre in its operations. The bench also asked petitioner Aditya N Prasad, who had sought urgent steps to recuse the trapped workers, to call a law officer of the Centre so appropriate order can be taken immediately.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta was asked to appraise the court on Friday about the Centre's current actions and steps it plans to take in future to rescue the miners, Bar and Bench reported.

While senior advocate Anand Grover submitted to the court that there is no coordination among the agencies roped in to rescue the labourers, the Meghalaya government told the court that it is, in fact, working with the Centre to rescue them.

"The state is taking steps to rescue the trapped miners. As many as 72 NDRF personnel, 14 navy personnel and Coal India personnel have been working since 14 December," ANI quoted state government officials as saying. In response, the Supreme Court asked: "Then why are they not successful?"

The matter of the miners trapped in the rat hole mine in the East Jaintia Hills was mentioned for urgent listing on Wednesday before a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice SK Kaul.

This was after navy divers, on Monday, successfully entered the inundated rat hole coal mine in Meghalaya as part of their rescue operations. A 15-member diving team of the navy from Vishakhapatnam had arrived in Meghalaya on Saturday to help with the operation.

Rat hole mining involves digging pits ranging from 5 to 100 metres deep vertically into the ground, mostly on a hillside, like a narrow well, to reach the coal seam. These pits are so narrow that only one miner can enter at a time.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Jan 03, 2019 13:01:14 IST