State gets SC nod to call off rescue ops for Ksan miners

Court to hear standard operating procedure plea after four weeks

NEWDELHI: World’s longest rescue operation spanning seven months for the 16 trapped mines in an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya came to an end on Friday with the Supreme Court allowing the state government’s plea seeking its permission to call off the operations to retrieve the bodies.
As many as 16 miners were trapped inside the 370-feet deep mine at Ksan, East Jaintia Hills on December 13 last year after water from the nearby Lytien river gushed in.
Earlier, the Centre had told the court that it has to “believe in miracles” for the 15 miners to come out alive.
The court had also urged the Centre to try to rescue all alive if possible. 
In fact, the rescue operations, which is one the largest in the country involving various agencies, including the Army and Navy, was stopped for the last few months due to rain and also with no hope of getting back the trapped miners dead let alone live.
The apex court put its formal seal realising the fruitless marathon efforts at Ksan.

Rescuers work at the Ksan mine. (ST file)


The Advocate General Amit Kumar, who appeared for the state government, claimed that all other prayers, including compensation, have been given up by the petitioner.
The bench of Justices S A Bobde and B R Gavai also recorded in the order that there is no other issue in the writ petition. 
The bench passed the order while hearing a petition moved by lawyer Aditya N Prasad seeking urgent steps for rescuing the miners trapped in the rat-hole mine.
During the hearing on Friday, senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for the petitioner, told the court that the state has filed an application seeking permission to call off the operation.
“We are not opposing it (application filed by state),” Grover told the court, adding, “Now we are no longer on the issue of (rescue) operation”,
But the petitioner told the court that there should be a standard operating procedure (SoP) which could be followed in case of such eventuality as had happened in Meghalaya or any other part of the country. The bench said that it would hear the issue relating to the SoP after four weeks.
The apex court had in March this year directed the petitioner to “ascertain from the relatives of the deceased if they wish to have the bodies recovered having regard to the fact that they may be already in a completely decomposed condition”,
Remotely operated underwater vehicles (RoVs) had detected three bodies in the mine earlier and retrieved two.

Timeline

Dec 13, 2018: Water floods mine at Ksan, East Jaintia Hills trapping 15 miners.
Dec 14: NDRF, SDRF begin rescue operations.
Krip Chulet, one of the accused involved in illegal mining arrested.
Dec 20: Mining expert and award-winning rescuer Jaswant Singh Gill visits site suggest government seeks help of Coal India Ltd.
Dec 28: An Indian Force plane airlifts personnel of Odisha Fire Service, Bhubaneswar to Guwahti. Teams of Coal India Limited and Kirloskar Brothers on the way to the site.
Dec 29: 14 Navy divers  and a 21-member Odisha Fire Service team visit site.
Jan 2, 2019: Supreme Court decides to hear a petition by lawyer Aditya N Prasad seeking direction to the Centre and other authorities concerned to prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) for rescue operations in “mines and other similar conditions”.
Jan 3: Supreme Court expresses “dissatisfaction” with the rescue operations.
Jan 11: Supreme Court says, “we do not know if the miners are dead or alive but miracles can happen”. Asks government to keep trying.
Jan 17: Body of a miner detected by the underwater remotely operated vehicle (UROV) of the Indian Navy.
Jan 23: Body retrieved.
Jan 28: Army joins the effort.
Feb 6: Odisha Fire Service team leaves.
Feb 28: Indian Navy retrieves second body.
March 2: Army and Navy decide to cease operations, officials confirm 16 miners were trapped and not 15.
April 20: Nine families of trapped miners agree to operations being called off provided that compensation is given. Rain prevents rescue operations till July 11.
July 12: Supreme Court allows Meghalaya government to call off rescue operations.

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