A citizens’ forum has urged the Supreme Court to ban coal mining in Meghalaya, claiming that the state government colluded with those in the industry, PTI reported. The report was released on Sunday, which marked a month since 15 miners have been trapped inside an illegal mine in East Jaintia Hills district. They are feared dead.
The Meghalaya government wilfully and actively helped coal miners illegally extract coal and transport it in violation of orders of the National Green Tribunal and the Supreme Court, the report claimed, according to The Indian Express. The group had submitted the report to the top court on January 7.
Angela Rangad, the leader of the group, said there were 24,626 coal mines in the district, averaging to as many as 52 mines per square kilometre. The National Green Tribunal had banned the rat-hole mining technique in May 2014.
“This is evident from the fact that out of the 57 months [since the ban], the NGT and the Supreme Court has allowed 32 months of transportation,” Rangad said. “Where did so much untransported coal come from? We have requested the court to issue direction to the state government to confiscate all untransported coal and use it in public undertaking factories.”
Meanwhile, new teams arrived on Sunday to help in the rescue efforts, which have been marred by extremely high water levels in the mine. The teams comprise experts from the National Geophysical Research Institute, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Gravity and Magnetic Group, Ground Penetrating Radar, and Chennai-based Remotely Operated Vehicle, PTI reported. They will begin their survey and operations on Monday, reported The Telegraph.
About 200 personnel from the Navy, National Disaster Response Force, Coal India and Kirloskar Brothers Limited have already been part of the mission. Over 1 crore litres of water have been pumped out of the main shaft of the 370-foot-deep mine, operation spokesperson R Susngi told PTI. Another 2 crore litres of water has been pumped out from adjacent mines, but the rescuers remain clueless about how and where the water is coming from, Susngi said.
The Supreme Court had earlier pulled up the government for its inefficiency in conducting rescue efforts and had asked for updates. It also asked the Centre and the Meghalaya government to seek assistance from experts and continue the efforts.