Tribute to victims of Gajlitand tragedy - BCCL employees, trade unions observe 17th anniversary of flood that killed 64 miners

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  • Published 27.09.12

The employees of BCCL’s Katras area on Wednesday remembered 64 coal miners, who died in a flood at Gajlitand colliery on this day 17 years ago.

A programme in memory of those who lost their lives was organised at Gajlitand football grounds by the regional management of BCCL’s Katras area in collaboration with Sahid Smarak Samiti — an association of the deceased’s dependants. An all-religion prayer was held followed by a tribute at the memorial.

Top officials of BCCL, including chairman-cum-managing director Tapas Kumar Lahiri, director (personnel) P.E. Kachchap, director technical (operations) D.C. Jha and director technical (project and planning) A. Sarkar besides the local management led by general manager of Katras area Subir Das, were present. Trade union leaders like general secretary of Rashtriya Colliery Mazdoor Sangh A.K. Jha, former Baghmara MLA O.P. Lal and the sangh’s leader Uday Singh also paid floral tributes.

On that fateful day on September 26, 1995, as many as 64 miners had died in the tragedy caused by record rainfall that started the night before. Out of 80 people who had entered the mine around 11pm on September 25, 1995, only 16 could be evacuated while the rest were washed away as water from river Katri entered the mine around 6am.

A court of inquiry was instituted under the supervision of retired judge of Patna High Court S.K. Mukherjee to find out whether the incident was the fallout of natural calamity or human failure. It emerged during the course of the probe that the mine got inundated because the river changed its course and entered Gajlitand colliery after its western embankment got damaged in the heavy showers.

A trade union leader, who had taken part in the proceedings, said on condition of anonymity that although the court of inquiry could not be concluded as it was adjourned, it came to the fore that so many people would not have died had the authorities ensured timely evacuation. “It was also found out that the sluice gate was not opened, leading to flood and damage of the embankment,” said the leader.

BCCL management, however, provided jobs and compensation to the dependants of 64 workers who lost their lives.

“What’s shocking is that the coal company has not learnt a lesson. Similar incidents are recurring like the one in Horladih area. Institution like mines regulatory authority and Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS) should be made more powerful to ensure safe running of mines,” said general secretary of Rashtriya Colliery Mazdoor Sangh A.K. Jha.

Deputy mayor and trade union leader Niraj Singh squarely blamed BCCL for the incident. He also accused DGMS of shielding BCCL officials.