Expressing dissatisfaction over the progress in operations to rescue miners trapped in a flooded mine in Meghalaya, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to look into it considering its “urgency” and said it was “a question of life and death” for those trapped.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to appraise it about what was being done by Friday. “Tell us tomorrow. This is not even Monday. For people who are trapped, every second counts,” the court observed while hearing a petition by advocate Aditya N Prasad seeking the court’s intervention in the matter.
“We have requested Mr Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General of India, who is present in the Court, to look into the matter having regard to the urgency involved as it is a question of life and death of coal miners who are trapped in the Ksan area of Lunthari in East Jaintia Hills of State of Meghalaya for number of days,” the bench recorded in its order.
Noting that the Meghalaya government had submitted that “adequate steps have been taken for the rescue of these miners”, the court added that it was “however of the opinion” that “still prompt immediate and effective operation is required to rescue these miners and for this reason we have requested Mr Tushar Mehta.to look into the matter and apprise the Court about such steps”.
Initially when the petition came up before it, the bench sought the presence of a government law officer. Justice Sikri then remarked “we pray to God that they (miners) are all alive. But whether they are all dead, all alive, some alive or few dead, they have to be brought out of the mine”.
Subsequently, as the SG appeared before it, Justice Sikri told him “the Union should do something here” and wondered why the help of the Army was not being taken for the rescue efforts. “I had read in papers that they (Army) had offered help,” the judge said, adding that there appeared to be a lack of coordination.
Mehta highlighted the ongoing efforts and said a nodal officer would be appointed for coordinating the rescue.
But the court was not satisfied and referred to news of high pressure water pumps from India sent to Thailand to help with the rescue of footballers trapped in a cave. “No such thing is happening here,” Justice Skiri said.
The SG said that since this was a disaster, specialised teams from National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) had been pressed into operation.
“Seventy-two members of NDRF already there, but nothing is happening,” the court retorted.
Mehta added that the mine was flooded by the nearby river and hence Navy divers had been sent to the scene.
The miners, apparently 15 in number, have been trapped in the illegal mine since December 13.