And Quiet flows the katri

A K Roy writes :

Even in the midst of political diversions and many ugly incidents blunting our sensitivity the memory of Gaslitand mine disaster still survives. The episode once shook the conscience of the country and now it is shocking, the government is trying to supress the Report on it after its submission as the silence and inaction suggest. The Report which should have been made public by the government itself by releasing to the press was to be brought out to the public by asking Parliament Question as the unstarred Question no 2461. dated 8.8.2000 shows.

It may be remembered that Gaslitand coal mine under Bharat Coking Coal Ltd. in the district of Dhanbad, Bihar was flooded by the Katri river flowing by the side of it which swelled due to rain breaching the embankment drowning all the 64 mines working under ground at the depth of 535 ft. in the night of September 26, 1995. When the water of Katri river started entering the mine the workers underground rang the bell asking for the lift to take them out. There was none on the surface in duty to act on that though the bell went on ringing for 3 hours and miners faced the agonising slow death. Never before in the history of mining so many workers died of surface water entering the mine. The news brought everybody to Gaslitand. The Minister of Coal announced judicial enquiry on 28.5.99 and action against those found guilty within three months. However, the things dragged on. The

notification of Enquiry under a retired High Court Judge of Patna, Sri S K Mukherjee was issued on 17.10.95 and the Court of Enquiry actually started working from 24.2.97 and before it could complete its work properly it was asked to wind up submitting the Report despite widespred protest. After that nothing was heard about the Report and its recommendations till the answer of the Parliament Question brought that to light.

It may be noted that the guilt in the episode was so evident (as pointed out in my article that time, Frontier 9.12.95 and 7.6.97) that on the next day itself i.e. 27.9.95 the Dy.commissioner, Dhanbad sent report to the Chief Secretary, Bihar holding the management responsible for the tragedy. An FIR was drawn by the Katras P S under section 304, 34 IPC (Katras P S case no 334/95) on 27.9.95 against the 14 accused persons which included senior General Manager, Agent under manager, safety officers, over man etc. In the part 12 of the report under ‘‘observaton to be noted by Government’’ the commission says : the death of 64 innocent miners should not go unavenged and the criminal cases should be prosecuted. However, till this date nothing has been done. No progress has been made in the case and in place of taking action the accused officers were given promotion.The credibility and bonafide of both the government and BCCL are now in question for not doing justice and are now in the same dock along with guilty officers.

Quiet flows the Katri. But the coal belt may not remain quiet if the Govt. and Bccl fail to come out with Action Taken Report immediately on the observation of the Commission.