Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of sheer lack of concern for the 15 miners trapped in an illegal rat-hole mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills for the last two weeks. Requesting Modi to save the miners, Gandhi said the prime minister has been more interested in posing for photo options than facilitating the rescue of the trapped miners. Quoting a media report, Gandhi also charged that the Modi government has refused to "organise high-pressure pumps" as demanded by the rescue team for the operation.
"15 miners have been struggling for air in a flooded coal mine for two weeks. Meanwhile, PM struts about on Bogibeel Bridge posing for cameras. His government refuses to organise high pressure pumps for the rescue. PM please save the miners," Gandhi tweeted on Wednesday.
Trapped in the mine since December 13, time is fast-ticking for the 15 miners. The rescue operation led by a team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was temporarily halted on Monday after the available pumps were largely inefficient in pumping out the water. The exercise will resume once more powerful pumps are made available to district authorities, district Deputy Commissioner F.M. Dopth had said. "We have temporarily suspended pumping of water out of the mine as the exercise did not yield any positive result. The water level has not subsided," Dopth said.
However, media reports said the request for high-power pumps has been pending approval at the Meghalaya government since December 16. Apparently, Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma had written to Coal India seeking transportation of their high powered pumps to the mine to help drain the water out. However, the response to CM's appeal is unknown.
The opposition Congress has criticised the state government for its "failure" to rescue the trapped miners. "If the government of Thailand can launch an operation involving international search and rescue teams (to rescue the 13 trapped footballers), this government is not serious at all in rescuing trapped miners," Congress spokesperson H. M. Shangpliang said.
Except for MLA of Rajabala constituency, Azad Aman, who visited the site eight days ago, none of the ministers and not even the disaster management minister visited the accident site, Shangpliang said.
Meanwhile, water level continued to rise in the mine with water from the nearby Lytein River.
According to locals, one of the diggers could have accidentally punctured the walls of the cave following which the river water gushed into it on December 13. As of Monday, the water level in the mine shaft was about 70 feet.
About 100 personnel of the national and state disaster response forces, along with the police, are waiting for the water to recede about 30 feet as divers can do their job once the water level subsides up to that level, Superintendent of Police, Sylvester Nongtynger, said.
About 20 miners on December 13 entered the quarry owned by Krip Chullet. After reaching the bottom of the pit, they entered horizontal manholes, often termed as 'rat-holes', as each just about fits one person.
(With PTI inputs)