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Children work in rat-hole coal mines of Meghalaya: NHRC member

 SHILLONG, Feb 10 - A member of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed concern that children are being employed in coal mines of Meghalaya, which was banned by the National Green Tribunal four years ago.

NHRC member Justice PC Ghosh also urged the authorities to stop illegal coal mining to address its impact on environment and for the safety of labourers.

“The tunnels of the mines are called rat-holes because of their small heights. (That is why) children are generally employed in these coal mines,” Justice Ghosh said while addressing a workshop on elimination of bonded labour and child labour system here on Friday.

Rat-hole mining involves digging of narrow horizontal tunnels, usually 3-4 feet high, for workers to enter and extract coal. The NHRC member said it has been observed that water floods those mines resulting in the death of many, as in the case of one in East Jaintia Hills district recently.

He hoped that the authorities have taken steps to address the difficulties being faced by the affected labourers’ families.

The State Government has provided Rs 1 lakh interim relief to the family members of those labourers trapped in the illegal coal mine.

Altogether 15 labourers had been trapped in that flooded mine in December and till now, only one body could be retrieved. Water had gushed into the mine from a nearby river after breaking a wall.

The divers of the Navy and the NDRF had retrieved the body last month using an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV).

Though another body was detected by the ROV, it could not be retrieved and has apparently been lost again in the turbid water inside the mine, operation spokesperson R Susngi said. At present, the Navy is operating the ROV round the clock while dewatering processes by various agencies is continuing side by side, he said.

The coal mine owner Krip Chullet was arrested on December 14, a day after the accident took place. Two more persons allegedly involved in operating the mine are on the run. – PTI

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