Indian Supreme Court expresses dissatisfaction — Instructs government to get the miners out ‘dead or alive’


  • India's top court has instructed the state government of Meghalaya to rescue the miners as soon as possible as 'every minute counts'.
  • The Indian Supreme Court has also directed the state government that the miners have to be rescued, regardless of whether they're dead of alive.
  • 15 labourers have been stuck in a ‘rat hole’ mine in India for nearly a month despite multi-agency efforts to rescue them.
15 miners have been stuck in a ‘rat hole’ mine in the eastern state of Meghalaya for nearly a month while all rescue efforts have proven unsuccessful. After hearing a petition regarding the matter, the Indian Supreme Court has instructed the state government to get the miners out — dead or alive.

The judges stated, “Every minute counts”. They added, “No matter whether they are all dead, not dead or all alive — they should be taken out.”

Expressing their dissatisfaction, they questioned the state government as to why the army hadn’t been asked to join to rescue operations. The government justified that they already had firefighters from Odisha, the Indian Navy and the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) on board.

The court appropriately retorted, “Then, why were they not successful?”

Getting the Supreme Court's attention

After nearly a month of being trapped in a 320 feet deep mine in the eastern Indian state of Meghalaya, the country’s Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea that was seeking to increase the rescue efforts underway on Wednesday.

The PIL filed by Aditya N Prasad, an Indian lawyer, was seeking adequate manpower as well as equipment to rescue the miners. The plea also included preparing a ‘Standard Operation Procedure’ (SOP) by the central government for how rescue operations should be implemented when it comes to mining rescue operations.

Last week, search operations were been suspended altogether for the 15 miners that have trapped at the end of a ‘rat-hole’ after nearly a fortnight of searching.

Right before the New Year, the Indian Navy and the Odisha Fire Service were also pulled in to help with the rescue efforts alongside the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

The probability of finding survivors is thin considering the amount time that has lapsed, but rescuers assert that there is hope in case the miners were able to find an air pocket underground.


Here’s a look at the rescue efforts underway:


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The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the specialised task force in charge of the rescue operation, stated that they have, “never dealt with such a crisis before.”

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the specialised task force in charge of the rescue operation, stated that they have, “never dealt with such a crisis before.”

(Image source: Reuters)

The government of Meghalaya had to pause their rescue efforts after the two 25-horsepower pumps that they had at their disposal became ineffective due to stressed use.

The government of Meghalaya had to pause their rescue efforts after the two 25-horsepower pumps that they had at their disposal became ineffective due to stressed use.

(Image source: IANS)

Despite the NDRF’s best efforts, the situation on the ground didn’t change significantly since the mine was run illegally and there were no maps to help guide the divers.

Despite the NDRF’s best efforts, the situation on the ground didn’t change significantly since the mine was run illegally and there were no maps to help guide the divers.

(Image source: IANS)

The Odisha firefighters and the Indian Navy were called in to assist with the rescue efforts. The firemen are helping dewater the mine, while the Indian Navy has sent in divers.

The Odisha firefighters and the Indian Navy were called in to assist with the rescue efforts. The firemen are helping dewater the mine, while the Indian Navy has sent in divers.

(Image source: IANS)

Using an underwater remotely-operated vehicle (UROV), the Indian Navy divers were able to discern where a wooden structure with a rat hole beneath it and another rathole that had coal clogging its entrance were located.

Using an underwater remotely-operated vehicle (UROV), the Indian Navy divers were able to discern where a wooden structure with a rat hole beneath it and another rathole that had coal clogging its entrance were located.

(Image source: IANS)

But, even the Navy has stated that an effective search will only be feasible once the water level comes down. Until further dewatering of the mine takes place, divers can’t have access to those rat holes.

But, even the Navy has stated that an effective search will only be feasible once the water level comes down. Until further dewatering of the mine takes place, divers can’t have access to those rat holes.

(Image source: IANS)

The machines that were originally available — including sonar radios and heavy water suction pumps — weren’t successful in reducing the water level by even a centimetre.

The machines that were originally available — including sonar radios and heavy water suction pumps — weren’t successful in reducing the water level by even a centimetre.

(Image source: IANS)

Coal India Limited agreed to send in high-capacity submersible pumps that can pump out 500 gallons of water per minute — but they will take at least two days to set up. High-capacity pumps of Kirloskar Brother Limited as also expected to reach the mining site soon.

Coal India Limited agreed to send in high-capacity submersible pumps that can pump out 500 gallons of water per minute — but they will take at least two days to set up. High-capacity pumps of Kirloskar Brother Limited as also expected to reach the mining site soon.

(Image source: IANS)

The miners are trapped in a coal mine in Ksan village — that is around 130 kilometers from Shillong, the state’s capital city — when the mines were flooded by the nearby Lytein river.

The miners are trapped in a coal mine in Ksan village — that is around 130 kilometers from Shillong, the state’s capital city — when the mines were flooded by the nearby Lytein river.

(Image source: IANS)

The last 70 feet of the 320 feet drop into the mine is completely submerged in water, and the water is black since it’s mixed in with the coal.

The last 70 feet of the 320 feet drop into the mine is completely submerged in water, and the water is black since it’s mixed in with the coal.

(Image source: IANS)

Not only is the depth of the mine an issue, but also the fact that it essentially renders the divers blind when they’re attempting to conduct their search.

Not only is the depth of the mine an issue, but also the fact that it essentially renders the divers blind when they’re attempting to conduct their search.

(Image source: IANS)

The search didn’t start too well to begin with since it took the police a few hours to even locate the mine. The localities in the area feigned ignorance of any such mining activity in the area since ‘rat-hole’ mining since it’s illegal and they were afraid that the mine owners, who are currently on the run, might cause them harm.

The search didn’t start too well to begin with since it took the police a few hours to even locate the mine. The localities in the area feigned ignorance of any such mining activity in the area since ‘rat-hole’ mining since it’s illegal and they were afraid that the mine owners, who are currently on the run, might cause them harm.

(Image source: IANS)

Despite ‘rat-hole’ mining being illegal, the practice is prevalent in many parts of the state.

Despite ‘rat-hole’ mining being illegal, the practice is prevalent in many parts of the state.

(Image source: UCAN India)

The reason it’s called ‘rat-hole’ mining is that the narrow tunnels made for mining are normally only 3-4 feet high. They fit one person who has to crawl-in in order to extract the coal.

The coal mining was one of the biggest revenue earners for Meghalaya but the National Green Tribunal had to ban the ‘rat-hole’ method since the safety of the miners was a major concern.

In this case, most the miners weren’t local which makes it easier for the mine owners to run illegal operations and not worry about the backlash from potential mishaps.

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