Rescue operations underway at the illegal coal mine in East Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya

Shillong: The Meghalaya Human Rights Commission (MHRC) is yet to get any response from the Meghalaya government over a notice it issued for intiatinga probe into the recent illegal coal mining tragedy in East Jaintia Hills. Taking suo moto cognisance of the case, the MHRC had issued the notice to the state government on December 17 to submit a detailed report on the incident within 30 days.

Acknowledging the gross violation of human rights in the illegal coal mine tragedy, the rights body has sought details about what led to the incident, the steps that have been taken by the government to rescue the trapped miners and the preventive measures that will be taken by the government, apart from awarding compensation to the victim’s family members.

Terming the incident as an unfortunate one, Aldous Mawlong, secretary, MHRC, told EastMojo, “The authorities concerned have not been able to recover any of the bodies and we are monitoring this very closely. Latest data provided by the local administration has taken the number to 14 miners, instead of 13, who are trapped inside the mine.”

When asked if the government has formed an enquiry committee to probe the incident as demanded by the MHRC, Mawlong said, “Since we submitted the notice on December 17 and it was a government holiday the next day, we are expecting a response from the government on the constitution of an inquiry committee soon. But we haven’t received any notification on that yet from the government.”

With several activists including Agnes Kharshiing, who was recently attacked while she was tracking the route of illegally mined coal laden trucks, pointing out to the alleged nexus between political leaders and the coal mafia, the credibility of a probe initiated by the government seems questionable.

When asked if the MHRC feels that a government probe as demanded by them would lead to any conclusion, Mawlong said, “We will closely monitor the progress on a daily basis. But it would not be fair to side-line the government immediately. We are giving them an opportunity to react and conduct a fair probe. If we are not satisfied with their investigation, we will definitely demand an independent probe into the same. We will not allow any kind of partiality or bias into the probe.”

The coal mine incident happened on December 13, when the miners reportedly hit an aquifer while digging inside the 370-ft ‘rat-hole’ mine and the mine got flooded for nearly 70 ft. A team of more than 100 NDRF, SDRF and civil defence personnel have been engaged in the search and rescue operations.

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