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Operation to pull out body put on hold

Govt instruction on resumption awaited

SHILLONG: The Indian Navy on Sunday suspended its efforts to pull out the body (officially “remains”) its underwater remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) had found on Wednesday evening inside one of the lateral shafts of the ill-fated rat-hole coal mine at Ksan in East Jaintia Hills district where 15 miners are believed to be trapped since December 13.
Official sources said on Sunday resumption of the operation would depend on government’s instructions.
The number of miners trapped could go up to 16 if claims by the family of one Kuti Miya from Lanka in Hojai district of Assam also being trapped turn out to true on verification.
The sources said the Navy suspended the operation that was on since Saturday evening as the body was “disintegrating” with every pull by the ROV.
The ROV, besides two high-powered cameras, also has an approximately foot-long arm with clamps at the end – referred to as “jaws”-to pull objects it detects, if required. The ROV is guided by Navy personnel with the aid of a joystick.
The ROV had on Wednesday pulled the body about a hundred feet
from where it was detected. But further pulling was stopped when it was observed that parts of the body were “disengaging,” which in other words means flesh was coming off.
Families of some of the trapped miners, who on Thursday were invited to the mine site to see the video footage of the body captured by the ROV, were told it was in a highly decomposed state and would “disintegrate” completely if any attempt was made to pull it out.
However, the families insisted they wanted bodies of their kin for burial; some have said even parts of bodies would do. Following this, the ROV was again put to work to retrieve the “remains” on Saturday.
On Saturday, Peter Ingty, Additional Chief Secretary, who is overseeing the rescue operation, said “The deputy commissioner (F M Dopth) is talking to the next of kin and trying to convince them that it is very difficult to retrieve the body.” He said it is because of the Supreme Court order that the operation has not been called off.
“It is only because of the Supreme Court order that we are hanging on. Submissions will be made before the court and let’s see what happens,” Ingty said.
The apex court is hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking steps to rescue the miners.
The petitioner, Advocate Aditya N Prasad (not Aditya Verma as erroneously reported in Sunday’s edition of The Shillong Times), told this newspaper on Saturday that he was not going to give up.
A Supreme Court bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer had earlier expressed dissatisfaction with the rescue operation and ordered : “No matter whether they (trapped persons) are all dead, some alive, a few dead or all alive, they should have been taken out by now. We pray to God that they all are alive.”
The court was to take up the matter again on January 19, but could not as Justice Sikri was reportedly unwell. It is likely to take it up on Monday. (With inputs from agencies)

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