Bhangnamari (Chirang), Assam: With the Indian Navy suspending operations to pull out the body of a miner — days after ‘detecting’ it inside the illegal rat-hole coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills — owing to too much disintegration, victims’ families are now hoping against hope. Some of them say they just want the mortal remains to be recovered, even if it’s a finger or a leg.
“It may not be possible to get them back alive anymore, but at least we would want their mortal remains to be recovered,” said Safura Khatun (28), a resident of Bhangnamari in Assam’s Chirang district.
Khatun’s younger brother, Manirul Islam (19), is one of the three miners hailing from the village — of the total 15 — who have been trapped inside the East Jaintia Hills coal mine since December 13 last year.
A few days ago, the body of a miner was detected at a depth of 160 ft and at a lateral distance of 210 ft inside the main shaft of the mine with the help of footage from an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV).
Criticising the government for adopting a lackadaisical attitude in its rescue operations, Khan said: “Amid massive scientific development, it’s really unfortunate that the rescuers have taken so much time to trace the miners,” she lamented.
On the unabated migration of village youths to the hills of Meghalaya to work in the coal mines, most of which already been declared as illegal by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), as labourers, Khatun said that the issue crops primarily because of the Meghalaya state administration itself, which has been allowing the activity to take place under its nose.
“Since there is no source of livelihood in the village, these youths are going to these mines only to get some extra money. Had these mines been closed, nobody would have gone there in the first place,” she said.
No end to misery
Abhijan Khatun (28), wife of Amir Hussain (30), who is also one of the three from the village trapped inside the coal mine, is clueless about her future, especially her three small children — Yashmina Khatun (9), Amrita Begum (7) and Abu Huriahrra (2).
With the bread-winner of the family gone, Khatun said, “We have nothing except this hut and a yards of land. How will I feed my family? Who will take care of my child’s education?”
Khatun requested the state government and Bodoland Territorial Council chief Hagrama Mohilary to offer her some sort of financial help.
Like Khatun, Abdul Mian (60) is also in a quandary. His second son, Shair Islam (33), is also one of the victims. “It’s all about the interest of the Almighty. But at this age, how will I run his (Shair’s) family comprising his wife and three children who are in the age group of 4-9 years,” Mian, a former daily-wage labourer, says.
Islam’s wife, Shazida Khatun (25), wants to go out to earn some money but is unable to do so owing to her young children.
Like Abhijan Khatun, Shazida Khatun has also urged both the state government and BTC chief Mohilary to help their families in whatever way possible.