| NDRF personnel at the coal mine at Nengkol in South Garo Hills. File picture |
New Delhi, Oct. 7 (PTI): The National Green Tribunal today warned the Meghalaya government after it stated that 15 persons, who were allegedly trapped inside a coal mine in the Garo hills in a 2012 mining accident, could have escaped as no bodies were found.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the stand of the state government, a bench headed by tribunal chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said it was considering hearing the matter in Meghalaya in order to find out the actual facts.
“When the mine was being flooded with water from an adjacent mine and there was only one entry point or outlet, where did the 15 persons trapped inside go?” the bench asked.
“We are entirely unsatisfied with the report submitted and stand taken with regard to the incident that took place on July 6, 2012, when it is admitted that more than 30 persons were working and 15 of them were trapped. If water was flooding from adjoining mine and could not be pumped out because of heavy monsoon, then the authorities have to explain what happened to the 15 workers who were trapped,” the bench said. It directed the principal secretary of the mining and geology department of Meghalaya to be present before the tribunal with entire records.
The tribunal also directed the owner of the mine to be present before it on the next date of hearing which it will communicate to the lawyers in the case after deciding whether to hear the matter in Delhi or Meghalaya. It also termed as “shocking” the delay by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) in submitting its final report with regard to the incident, despite more than a year having transpired.
The tribunal was hearing a petition, which contends there is a threat to life because of the coal mining activity in South Garo Hills district of Meghalaya.
During the proceedings, the counsel for the Meghalaya government, while admitting there was an “incident” on July 6, 2012, said since no bodies were found there was a possibility that the 15 trapped workers could have escaped. However, not won over by the claim, the bench asked the lawyer, “We are totally unsatisfied with what you have said. How did they escape? There was only one outlet. Mine was being flooded. Water could not be pumped out. So what happened to the 15 workers?”
The mine owner was also pulled up by the bench after it was informed that no records of the workers working in the mine were being kept. Earlier, the tribunal had directed the Meghalaya government to furnish the reports of the NDRF and FIR lodged regarding the July 2012 mining accident that allegedly resulted in the death of 15 miners trapped inside a coal mine in the Garo hills.
The tribunal had called for complete records and files after the NDRF said it found no bodies and the state contended that no one was hurt or killed in the incident.
The bench had also directed the mine owner to “produce on record as to what was the mine’s per day production, which is stated to be 15 tonnes or more, as well as number of persons deployed, which is stated to be 35.”