"Believe in miracles.” This is what the Centre told the Supreme Court on Friday while responding to a PIL which sought urgent steps to rescue the 15 miners, who have been trapped for almost a month inside an illegal rat-hole coal mine filled with water in Meghalaya. Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta told a bench of Justices AK Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer, which observed that it was not known if they were still alive, that the authorities were making all efforts to save the lives of these people and the Indian Navy and planes and helicopters of the Indian Air Force have been deployed in the rescue operation.
“There is no dispute that you are making efforts. Whether they (miners) are alive today, we do not know. Maybe somebody is alive there. You have to take them out," the bench told Mehta, adding, "You have to continue making efforts".
The Supreme Court is hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Aditya N Prasad, who sought urgent steps to rescue the miners trapped since December 13 last year.
The Centre and the Meghalaya government apprised the bench about the steps taken in the operation to rescue the 15 miners.
The bench also asked the state government whether any action has been taken against those indulging in illegal mining activities in Meghalaya. The state's counsel said the person running the illegal mine where the incident took place has been arrested.
According to him, the bench that the Indian Navy has deployed five remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) in the operation and one crore litres of water had been pumped out from the illegal mine, but seepage from nearby rivers was creating hurdles in the rescue operation.
Mehta had earlier told the apex court that 71 members of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), 20 from the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), 16 Navy personnel and others, including those from Odisha fire service and Coal India Ltd., were working in the rescue operation.
The Meghalaya government had filed a status report on the rescue operation and said there were problems like difficult terrain and lack of proper infrastructure at the site which were creating hurdles.
On the issue of funds, the state had said: "Advance fund for meeting any emergency arising from natural calamities is placed with the Deputy Commissioner (DC). At the start of the rescue operation, DC had more than Rs 30 lakh at his disposal. On January 3, the government took a decision to place an additional Rs 20 lakh with the DC to meet the requirements."
(With PTI inputs)