SHILLONG, Jan 22: Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui on Friday the government was awaiting an investigating report to ascertain if the death of six people inside a 180-foot abandoned pit in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills was due to illegal coal mining.
“Prima facie, this appears to be an accident as the crane being used collapsed but I have not received the report to ascertain the cause,” he said, adding that the police found the bodies after receiving information of the incident at 5:30 pm on Thursday.
“Since there was no one around to ask, the police are trying to find out the cause although the primary cause is said to be crane malfunction,” Rymbui said.
The Home Minister said that the Sordar who had brought the six to work was absconding and efforts were on to complete the probe soon.
Rymbui admitted it was the second coal mine related accident in the district in a little more than two years. “The duty of the government is to prevent illegality which cannot be ruled out (in this case) but such incidents open our eyes. We need to monitor more to prevent illegal mining and loss of lives,” he said.
The Home Minister said some people were trying to circumvent the law for their benefit and it is the duty of the police and administration to see such things do not happen.
“The police and the district administration are monitoring vigorously and those flouting the law will be caught,” he said.
He also said the government would look into the larger picture and stop illegal mining soon.
In a statement, Assistant Inspector General of Police, GK Iangrai said that a criminal case has been registered and efforts were on to establish the whereabouts of the owner and manager of the mine.
Responding to the mining tragedy, Leader of Opposition Mukul Sangma said, this only confirms that illegal mining carries on unabated and the CM is lying both inside the House and outside it.
Mukul said this is a very well scripted modus operandi run by people in the Government.
“I have physically visited Jaintia Hills and West Khasi Hills and can give the exact coordinates where mining is taking place. This incident has put Meghalaya in a bad light yet again,” Mukul said adding that an independent enquiry into the illegal mining issue is imperative.
Mukul further stated that the fact that illegal mining is going on is not only depriving the state of revenue but the three autonomous Councils too are starved of funds since they are not getting royalty. And the Council’s are important institutions for us as a tribal community.
The former chief minister had earlier asked the government to enforce various sub-sections of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, to punish the perpetrators of illegal activities.
In a letter to Chief Secretary MS Rao, Sangma claimed illegal coal mining was taking place in violation of the MMDR Act and the ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal.
Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong had responded by saying the authorities concerned had been given a standing order to be vigilant and take stringent action against those found involved in illegal mining and transportation of coal.Mine mishap exposes govt: Cong
The Opposition Congress has slammed the MDA government over the death of six labourers in a coal mine in East Jaintia Hills, asserting that the incident exposed the government’s claim that no illegal coal mining activity was taking place in the state.
The accident happened in a 180-foot coal pit near Rymbai village on Thursday afternoon.
“This accident has exposed the continuous denial of the government about illegal mining in the state. The government must explain to the people of the state how this incident has happened when illegal mining was not taking place in the state,” Congress MLA Ampareen Lyngdoh said.
The state government has been denying reports of illegal coal mining and transportation even after 15 miners drowned in a 370 feet coal pit in the Ksan area of East Jaintia Hills district in December 2018.
Terming Thursday’s mishap as unfortunate, Lyngdoh said such incidents should not have occurred after the government claimed to have adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards illegal coal mining in the state.
“The government and the mine owner must compensate the families of the victims,” she said, asking the government to come clean on the compensation to be paid.