Harrowing repeats of history in Jharkhand
September 30, 2005
Ranchi: Another mine accident has occurred. Ten
more hapless people who had taken to working in an illegal coal mine in
Jharkhand to make two ends meet have died. But no lessons have been
If one goes through the history of mine accidents in India, most
have occurred due to the indifferent attitude of coal companies. The highest
number of deaths has taken place in illegal mines, often due to
But safety measures remain only on paper. The death of 10
illegal miners, mostly women, in Rajrappa colliery of Central Coalfield Limited
(CCL) Thursday is just the tip of the iceberg.
According to coal
companies, more than 1,300 miner deaths have occurred over the years, of which
827 were in illegal mines. Over 500 died when mines got inundated.
companies often carry out illegal mining in collision with police. In Jharkhand,
three coal companies operate besides Tata - CCL, Bharat Coking Coal Limited
(BCCL) and Eastern Coalfield Limited (ECL).
"We have several times
informed police about illegal mining, but no action is taken. Anyone can find
illegal miners carrying coal in colliery areas," an official of CCL told IANS on
condition of anonymity.
Some say illegal mining is going on at over 200
abandoned mines of the state.
Former union coal minister Shibu Soren has
demanded action against CCL and police for Thursday's mine accident. "Illegal
mining takes place due to the collusion between police and coal companies,"
The first big mine accident took place in 1912 when 23
miners lost their lives in Phuladitand colliery due to inundation. Perhaps the
worst mine accident in India took place in Chasnala in which 375 miners were
killed again due to flooding from water from nearby abandoned mines.
June this year, 14 miners lost their lives in Basgaraha mines of the central
Saunda project of CCL. In February 2001, 29 miners lost their lives at the
Bagdigi mines of BCCL.
The Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS)
was constituted to suggest safety measures. But its suggestions are hardly taken
into consideration by coal company officials.
In underground mines, DGMS
has suggested erecting coal pillars and leaving a 40-meter wall between two
mines. But in most mine inundation accidents, these norms were flouted.
When Shibu Soren was coal minister he mooted a plan to legalise illegal
"If illegal mining is legalised, it will fix responsibility on
the contractors who get coal extracted from the abandoned mines," Soren had told
Whenever mine accidents take place in abandoned mines, police
register cases against the dead people. Generally the relatives of dead illegal
miners take away the bodies to escape the wrath of police.
accident took place due to vibration of machines on the upper sides, which made
the roof collapse. According to eyewitnesses, villagers took away seven bodies
to avoid police action.