Shillong: Several leaders of the opposition Congress in Meghalaya have held the state government led by CM Conrad K Sangma responsible for the coal mine tragedy in East Jaintia Hills district.
At least five miners have been trapped deep inside an illegal rat-hole coal pit in the remote Umpleng area of Sutnga Elaka when a dynamite blast on Sunday led to flooding of the mine.
Congress MLA PT Sawkmie said that the people are now taking advantage of the ongoing COVID-19 situation. “Since the focus of the police and the administration has been on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, some people are taking advantage in carrying out illegal coal mining activities,” said the legislator from Mawlai constituency.
The government must take stringent action against the culprits so that people don’t dare to get involved in such illegal activities in the future, he added.
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition Mukul Sangma said that they (Congress) have been raising the issue time after time.
“We have been trying to prevail upon the government to crack the whip and stop all illegal mining activities in the state. Unfortunately, they have always been on denial mode,” the former chief minister said.
Sangma also said that illegality of this scale cannot happen without the patronage of people in authority. “These are not some mining activities being done by small-scale miners. These are being done with the use of heavy machinery. Look at the last tragedy where the crane snapped that included heavy machinery. Such mining activities cannot skip the attention of the people in authority,” he said.
The Congress leader added that Jaintia Hills was split into many districts so that they have more supervision. “Under Jaintia Hills, we had created new districts like East Jaintia Hills and West Jaintia Hills so that we have more officers, more eyes and ears. But it is sad to say that if the government of the day chooses to allow illegalities to happen, then who can stop them,” he said, adding, “I hope the people of the state will decide once and for all to stop this.”
Meanwhile, at the site of tragedy, 25 personnel of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and fire service personnel are engaged in the rescue operations.
However, due to incessant rain, the operations have been disrupted since Monday. Many fear that the chances of saving the lives of the five migrant workers trapped inside the rat-hole mine are slim.