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Centre seeks miracle at illegal Meghalaya mine to save trapped miners

PW Bureau

Apex court tells authorities to ‘continue making efforts’ to save the lives of the 15 who went to work at the “rat-hole” mine on December 13 and have been underground ever since

New Delhi: It will take a miracle to save the 15 miners who have been trapped in an unlawful coal mine in Meghalaya for close to a month, the Centre told the Supreme Court, with a bench of Justices calling for the state to “continue making efforts.” Despite a ban by India’s environmental court in 2014, rat-hole mining has killed thousands of workers in the state prior to the recent incident and the practice continues to thrive.

The 15 went to work at the “rat-hole” mine on December 13 and have been underground ever since. The Centre says authorities have been taking all steps necessary to save the lives of the miners. Indian Navy and planes and Indian Air Force helicopters have already been deployed in the rescue operation.

“We have to believe in miracles,” Tushar Mehta, solicitor general (SG), said to a bench of Justices AK Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer. “There is no dispute that you are making efforts. Whether they (miners) are alive today, we do not know. Maybe somebody is alive there. You have to take them out. You have to continue making efforts,” the bench told Mehta.

The state’s counsel claimed that the individual operating the illegal mine has been arrested.

Mehta had previously told the SC that 71 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) members, 20 from the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and 16 Navy personnel and others, including those from Coal India and Odisha fire service, were part of the rescue operation.