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Plug pit fiat to stem illegal mining

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By SHASHANK SHEKHAR
  • Published 16.02.12
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The Bokaro deputy commissioner has ordered the heads of mining companies and the district administrative and police brass to fill up abandoned and illegal mines in the coal belt following two incidents of cave-ins that killed seven women last week.

In a letter sent on Tuesday from his confidential section to the general managers of coal firms, SDOs, circle officers, foresters, mining officials and policemen, DC Sunil Kumar has asked them to identify illegal miners and file FIRs against the culprits. He has also warned that the officials concerned would be held responsible if they fail to check illegal mining deaths.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Kumar said, “I have asked coal company officials to immediately fill up the abandoned pits, where illegal coal mining is a regularity.”

Kumar has also asked Bokaro superintendent of police Kuldeep Dwivedi to direct the officers in charge of all the police stations to co-operate with coal companies in filling up the illegal mines with sand.

The policemen as well as officials of government departments, including forest, have been asked to seal the abandoned mines after taking photographs of the sites as proof of action taken to check the illegal practice.

The areas, where illegal mining is widespread, as highlighted in the letter are Dakbera, Gaurigram and Pathargora of Chandankyari block, Bargadda, Kanjkiro and Tetariabera (Nawadih), Dhabaiyya (Mahuatand), Simrabera, Dania and Lalpania forests (Gomia) and Gandhinagar (falling in the Bokaro thermal power station area), Dhori and Angwali in Bermo.

The missive has been sent to the general managers of CCL collieries in Dhori, Bokaro and Kargali and Kathara, BCCL Dhanbad and Chasnala, the coal superintendent of DVC’s Bermo mines and the general manager of ECL’s Parbatpur coal block.

Both Kumar and SP Dwivedi also said that their subordinates had been asked to check illegal mining, adding that those flouting the orders would be penalised in accordance with government rules.

According to sources, the DC had also received complaints of illegal mining carried out in abandoned sites belonging to CCL elsewhere, besides several places in Chandrapura, where the practice is rampant on government land.

On February 7, five women — all illegal miners — were buried alive when the roof of a 15ft deep coal pit collapsed on them near Chandrapura junction, 35km from Bokaro steel city. Four days later, part of a 30-feet hillock of coal dump collapsed on two women in Chandrapura, killing both.

The Telegraph had reported the involvement of a section of police in a nexus that includes coal smugglers and Maoists that has ensured the booming illegal mining. Dwivedi had suspended officers in charge Suresh Prasad (Chandrapura) and R.S. Toppo (Mahuatand) on February 8.

State director (mines) B.B. Singh pointed out that enforcing mines safety in areas leased for mining to PSUs or private companies was the responsibility of the Directorate General of Mines Safety.

“As far as illegal mining in non-lease areas or government land is concerned, we have not issued any new circular to districts. But several circulars were sent to the offices of the DCs and SPs in the past to ensure illegal mining is not permitted in areas under their jurisdiction,” said Singh, when asked if the department has taken any fresh action at the back of the recent incidents.

Officials in the mines department also failed to show concern over the deaths, arguing that the victims were thieves. However, exploitation of tribals by the mafia in Dhanbad was raised by NHRC, which has sought a detailed report from the chief secretary.