The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that all appropriate steps were being taken to rescue 15 miners stuck in an illegal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district since December 13, PTI reported. The government said the Indian Navy has deployed remotely-operated underwater vehicles at the site to trace the miners.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the central government, told a bench of Justices AK Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer that 71 members of the National Disaster Response Force, 20 from the State Disaster Response Force, 16 Navy personnel and personnel from the Odisha Fire Services and Coal India Limited are working at the site.
The Meghalaya government filed a status report on the rescue effort. It said that lack of proper infrastructure and the different terrain in which the mine is located were making rescue operations tougher. “All efforts to rescue the trapped miners are being made with all earnestness and with the hope that the miners are surviving and shall be released from the ordeal,” the report said.
The report added that East Jaintia Hills Deputy Commissioner Frederick M Dopth has provided Rs 30 lakh from the emergency fund for handling the rescue mission. On January 3, the state provided another Rs 20 lakh for the operations.
The court is hearing a petition filed by Aditya N Prasad, seeking urgent steps to rescue the miners. On Monday, lawyer Anand Grover, representing the petitioner, said he would make a note based on the status report the Meghalaya government filed, and provide suggestions.
Rescue operations at the mine at Ksan village have slowed down after the pumps used to draw out water stopped working. The Supreme Court had pulled up the government for its inefficiency in conducting rescue efforts and had asked for updates on the rescue.
On Friday, the National Green Tribunal had fined the state government Rs 100 crore for illegal coal mining. The tribunal had banned coal mining in the state in 2014.