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Banned rat-hole mining saves trapped Uttarkashi tunnel labourers: Can we continue to ignore workers’ safety?

However, the prevalence of the practice was exposed once again in January 2019 when at least 15 miners in Meghalaya were killed in a rat-hole mine after being trapped for more than a month, a fate that the miners in Uttarkashi were fortunately able to evade. 

In 2022, an article in Shillong Times titled “Mask of rat-hole mining falls in State” which described the widespread use of rat-hoel mining in the Nengchigen village bordering the South Garo Hills District, caught the attention of the Meghalaya High Court.

The High Court took suo motu cognisance of the issue and directed the Chief Secretary and the Meghalaya Director-General of Police to visit the area and submit a report.

It is made clear that the matter complained of needs to be looked into, without any political interference; or else, the Court may be constrained to appoint a fact-finding committee or even put a special investigation team in place or take the assistance of some agency so that the matter is appropriately and thoroughly investigated in accordance with law and the persons involved are brought to book,” the High Court had ordered.

The High Court did end up appointing a single-member committee of former judge Justice BP Katakey to look into the issue and make recommendations on steps to be taken. The committee’s latest report stated that illegal coal mining has persisted despite orders. The suo matter remains pending as of today.

Source: Barandbench

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