Meghalaya government begins probe into coal mining mishap

Five labourers are feared trapped inside an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district.

(Representational Image: Pixabay)

The Meghalaya government has ordered for a magisterial inquiry into the mining accident where at least five labourers are feared trapped inside an illegal coal mine in the state’s East Jaintia Hills district.

“We have constituted a magisterial inquiry into the matter and the report is being awaited,” Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui informed on Tuesday.

Three of the five missing persons have been identified as Abdul Karim from Boko, Assam, Abdul Kalam from Barpeta, Assam and Shyamcharan Debbarma from Tripura. The two unidentified persons are said to be from Silchar, Assam.

The incident came to light only after information was received from SP of Silchar and after six persons came forward with eyewitnesses of the events that transpired on May 30.

Rymbui informed that the search and rescue operation teams from the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), Fire Brigade and police are presently stationed at the coal mine which is located under Umpleng AD Camp in Sutnga Elaka.

“However, they cannot do anything but wait since the water level is high due to heavy rain. They will take a call on what needs to be done and what is the next step,” he said.

Asked if the government foresees a Ksan-like search and rescue operation, the Home Minister however, said, “It is too premature for me to reply so let us wait for the full information.”

“Our priority is to get that man (Sordar) who is alleged to have engaged these labourers. If we get hold of him, we will know the actual fact…if it has happened how many people (are trapped),” he added.

On the steps taken by the government to curb illegal mining of coal in the state, Rymbui said, “People may try to do whatever they may like but it is the duty of the government to see that it stops. The place of the incident is very far from the main road so it is very difficult for the police to reach there.”

He informed that the police department has submitted a proposal to the state government for upgrading the anti-dacoity camp at Umpleng into a police outpost for better tackling of illegal activities. 

“They have proposed to the government that this AD camp in Umpleng could be upgraded to an outpost so that manpower can be strengthened to oversee if there is any illegal mining and all. So the process is on (to consider the proposal),” he added.

The Home Minister said if the incident has really taken place then it is very sad and it is totally unacceptable.

“When everybody is busy fighting the Covid pandemic there are still some greedy people who try to circumvent the law, who try to go behind and do all these things. So this is unacceptable,” Rymbui said while assuring that the police will go deep into this issue and ensure that action is taken against the people involved in the incident.

First Published:June 1, 2021, 9:47 p.m.

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