Shillong: Meghalaya police on Friday confirmed the deaths of two migrant coal miners from Assam in an abandoned coal mine at a remote area in West Khasi Hills district, even as police have launched a man-hunt to nab mine owner who has absconded following the coal mine tragedy on Wednesday.
“We have received information about the deaths of two coal miners from Assam’s Boko in an abandoned coal mine at Langmar area. The two miners were trying to resurvey the abandoned coal mine,” Herbert Lyngdoh, the district police chief of West Khasi Hills, told UNI over phone.
“There are many abandoned coal mine in those areas. Investigation is on to find out the coal mine where the incident took place,” he said. The police official said the investigation team has identified the owner of the abandoned coal mine who is known as Alfred Rongrin.
“He is absconding and a man-hunt is on trace him,” Lyngdoh said. Media reports said the two miners -Ainuddin Ali and Sukur Ali – died due to “asphyxiation”.
Unscientific ‘rat-hole’ coal mining has been banned in the unregulated mines in Meghalaya since April 2014 by a National Green Tribunal order, but illegal mines like this one have flourished freely due to poor enforcement of the ban. More than 30 coal miners have died in since December 2018 and exposed illegal coal mining in the State.
Though the government denies any illegal mining, there are accusations that an elaborate nexus between politicians, bureaucrats, police have ensured that such illegal mining continues unhindered.
The opposition Trinamool Congress has said it has hard evidence of illegal mining and transportation of coal to prove the State government has been turning a blind eye to the issue. Accusing the National People’s Party-led government was feigning ignorance about illegal coal trade, Leader of Opposition and former Chief Minister Dr. Mukul Sangma has asked the Central government to take cognisance of the illegal activities as coal is not a state subject. “We will give such evidence to the government to take cognisance of the illegalities,” the former Chief Minister said.