SHILLONG, Jan 25 � Meghalaya Government received a rap over the knuckles from the National Green Tribunal (NGT) here yesterday. Saying the government �can�t wash its hands off� from finding out the fate of 15 coal miners gone missing in a 2012 coal mine accident, the NGT asserted �The fate of human beings cannot be that of a cattle.�
Not just the State Government, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was also pulled up by the Tribunal for not being able to find out the fate of the coal miners.
Expressing shock, the Tribunal during its hearing at the Meghalaya High Court today, ordered the Assistant Commandant, Officer in-charge of NDRF to complete the search of the missing coal miners and submit its final report during the next hearing, which has been fixed on April 4.
�If the labourers were there and they could not escape, their skeletons should be there in the mine� and these should be taken out, the Tribunal, consisting of Justice Melath Sasidharan Nambiar as the judicial member and Ranjan Chatterjee as the executive member, ordered. It stated: �The truth must come out,� while directing both the State Government and NDRF to submit its final report before April 4 on the mishap and the missing miners.
The incident dates back to 2012 when 30 coal miners were trapped inside a rat-hole mine in South Garo Hills after water gushed into the mine. Fifteen miners escaped, but the fate of the other 15 is still unknown.
The Meghalaya High Court took up a sou-moto petition on the incident, which was subsequently transferred to the NGT.
Meanwhile, the Tribunal also ordered the mine contractor to furnish all the details of its mining activities and the miners with �names and details of their residences� engaged during 2014. The Tribunal said that these details should be furnished before the Tribunal and �any violation would be seriously viewed warranting stringent action.�
In the meantime, the Tribunal ordered the Meghalaya Government that the names of six miners, which it has in its possession, must be given wide circulation through newspaper advertisement in Assam, as they belonged to Assam�s Dhubri district.
�If the said labourers are alive, they themselves or if they are not alive, their dependents may appear,� the Tribunal said.
The Tribunal further said that the Amicus Curie of the Meghalaya High Court (who was absent during the hearing) be present during the next hearing and in the event of her inability, the Tribunal said a new amicus curie should be appointed.