The Centre informed the Supreme Court today that all appropriate steps were being taken to rescue 15 miners trapped since December 13 in an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya and Indian Navy has deployed remotely operated underwater vehicle in the operation there.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that 71 members of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), 20 from State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), 16 Navy personnel and others, including those from Odisha fire service and Coal India Ltd were working in the rescue operation.
The Meghalaya government, also filed a status report on the rescue operation and said there were problems like difficult terrain and lack of proper infrastructure at the site which were creating hurdles.
The top court is hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Aditya N Prasad who has sought urgent steps to rescue 15 miners trapped in an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district.
Senior lawyer Anand Grover, representing the petitioner, told the bench that he would make a note based on the status report filed in the court and give suggestions, which could be considered. The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on January 11.
Mr Mehta told the bench that the Navy was using a remotely operated underwater vehicle in the rescue operation.
The state government, in its status report, said there was no blue print of the illegal coal mine as it was being run "clandestinely" and rescue operation was extremely challenging as the site was in a difficult terrain where public services, infrastructure and material required were not easily available.
The state said water was rushing into the mine from the nearby river and it was interlinked with at least 20 other mines there. It said the site can be accessed only by 4X4 vehicles and there was complete lack of availability of electricity in the nearby areas.
It informed the court that fuel required to run generator sets, pumps and vehicles there have to be brought from a distance of one hour and high powered generator sets have to be brought in there for the rescue operation.
On the issue of funds, the state said, "Advance fund for meeting any emergency arising from natural calamities is placed with the Deputy Commissioner (DC). At the start of the rescue operation, DC had more than Rs 30 lakh at his disposal. On January 3, government took a decision to place additional Rs 20 lakh with the DC to meet the requirements.