Death in the pit

Published: Tuesday 31 October 1995

Late in the night of September 26, water from the Katri nullah (canal), flowing past the Jharia coal fields, Dhanbad, breached an embankment I entered 2 mines, after it had inun a nearby abandoned open cast. Around 64 miners met with a tragic end. This was the worst accident since Chasnala mine disaster, in the same district, 2 decades ago, when 150 manners died in a similar manner.

As is the case with most accidents in The country, this mishap too should never have occurred in the first place. rains (approximately 305 mm) reported to have lashed the previous day. But decision of the Bharat Coking Ltd (BCCL), whose miners killed, to withdraw the 10,000 odd miners from the in the area, came only after tragedy had struck. It was much too late for the miners and their families.

Rescue engineers at the site Not attempted to check the flow Of water the mines bydumping truckloads of rocks, where the nullah had breached its embankment, and by pumping out water. Even 48 hours after the catastrophe, they had reached a depth of only 60.96 metres (m), while the miners were working at a depth of more than 152.4 m.

As far back in 1978, a recommendation by the Directorate General of Mines Safety had stated that these 2 mines were to be closed if the water level rose above a certain level. With the water level 0.914 in above the danger mark, this directive was summarily ignored. The gory story, however, does not end here. The lifts to the mines were not functioning as the power lines to the colfiery had snapped. They were being operated by steam. This alternate system too had packed up and the distress signals of the trapped miners could not be heeded to.

In his report on the tragedy, the deputy commissioner of Dhanbad, Mahavir Prasad, squarely blamed BCCL, stating that the embankment was in a state of disrepair and neglect, and that the disaster could have been averted if the management had taken timely miasores. He added that security along the embankment had been terminated by BCCL, thereby leaving no possibility of an early warning.

With the resurgence of the privatisa tion in the mining industry, the te need for government agencies such as the Directorate General of Mines safety cry, to get their acts 71 together is ore than imperative. Going by he past records of mining companies, they seem to be, insentive to miners' safety. And the feeling in the miners community is that since the compensation they have to shell out is insignificant, the companies tend to ignore all safety procedures.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.