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'It's Dangerous But They Were Offered a Lucrative Deal': Families of Labourers Trapped in Meghalaya Mine Await 'the News'

Despite relentless efforts of the NDRF and SDRF teams, all the 15 labourers are believed to be dead. On December 13, the mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district caved-in and was flooded. The labourers were trapped at the bottom of the 400-feet deep tunnel.

Sujit Nath | News18

Updated:December 20, 2018, 6:52 PM IST
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'It's Dangerous But They Were Offered a Lucrative Deal': Families of Labourers Trapped in Meghalaya Mine Await 'the News'
As per official record, 15 people are trapped inside but the victims’ family members allege that the number is 18. Most of the labourers are from Meghalaya while others are from Assam and Nepal.
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Kolkata: The families of the labourers trapped inside an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya have given up any hope of survival and are just waiting for the inevitable now.

Despite relentless efforts of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), all the 15 labourers are believed to be dead. On December 13, the mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district caved-in and was flooded. The labourers were trapped at the bottom of the 400-feet deep tunnel.

Omila Khatoon, the mother of one of the labourers Abdul Kalam Sheikh, said, “I know my son is no more. I had told him not to go there for mining but he left as our financial condition is not good. He told me that if he doesn’t go then who will feed us?”

She sought help to get her ‘son’s body’ and said the family has to ‘beg to arrange for every day meals’. “My younger son became handicapped six years ago after an accident in a coal mine and is confined to a wheelchair. Please help us to perform his last rites atleast.”

Omila Khatoon with her younger son Abdul Karim.
Omila Khatoon with her younger son Abdul Karim.

Ali Hussain, a relative of labourer Mominul Islam, said, “Mining activities in that area is life threatening. Even I used to work there, but I quit after surviving an accident. The soil is very loose but the contractor gave him a lucrative offer which he could not refuse.”

Mominul Islam wife
Momina Isam's wife with her family.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had banned the ‘rat-hole technique’ of mining at the East Jaintia Hills in 2014.

Speaking to News18, Mominul’s wife Meher Bano said, “On December 12, he called me and said that he made a mistake by agreeing to work there. I asked him to return but he refused.”

As per official record, 15 people are trapped inside but the victims’ family members allege that the number is 18. Most of the labourers are from Meghalaya while others are from Assam and Nepal.

Noor Kalam, a resident of Assam, said three relatives are trapped in the cave. “We don’t have words to express the loss. We lost three young members of our family. We want stern action to be taken against those involved in this illegal racket.”

In a letter to the Chief Secretary, Azad Zaman, an MLA from West Garo Hills District, demanded compensation for the victims’ family members. “I personally visited the spot and noticed that only two water pumping machines were installed. This is not enough. There should be a high-level inquiry,” the MLA said.

Superintendent of Police of East Jaintia Hills District, Sylvester Nongtnger, said that the search operation is underway but more pumping machines are required. The mine owner and the main accused Jrin Chulet have been arrested and two others are on the run.

When asked how mining was possible despite the NGT’s ban, the SP said, “We keep a close watch in our area but we are short of manpower.”
| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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