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Man Behind The Machine – The Rat Miners

What the drilling machine could not do – as its blade broke and had to be removed – was done in the just 24 hours by those who are called “rat miners.”

The choice, as the popular saying goes, “between a rock and a hard place” was simply not there in India’s rescue of 41 workers from a partially crumbled tunnel in the lower Himalayan region. Both had to be crushed if the workers had to come out alive.

The workers had been trapped since November 12, for 17 days, in the Silkyara tunnel in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand state. The rescue operation can be rated as one of the largest of its type in the world when human endeavour is stretched to the maximum.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami meets the workers who have been rescued from inside the Silkyara tunnel, in Uttarkashi.

It was an operation in which the high-tech, including hurriedly imported heavy machinery and drilling equipment failed at the last stage. After parts of a US-made auger machine, which drilled up to 46.8 metres through the debris got stuck in the rubble on Friday. Australian tunnel expert, Arnold Dix was roped in the rescue operation along with the 19 Indian agencies. Special flights were organised to get the equipment from abroad. The operation attracted international attention with the global media focusing on both – what the humans and the machines were doing. But, at the last, officials managing the rescue operation opted for the ‘rat-hole’ mining technique.

The “rat miners” are usually from poor financial background but experienced workers who specialise in drilling holes into hard rock, using primitive methods and basic equipment like hammers. What the drilling machine could not do – as its blade broke and had to be removed – was done in the just 24 hours by those who are called “rat miners.” They conducted a manual dig for last 12 meters.

International Tunneling Expert, Arnold Dix speaks to the media on the Uttarkashi (Uttarakhand) tunnel rescue operation, in Uttarkashi. (ANI Photo)

What is rat-hole mining?

Rat-hole mining is a primitive, officially banned method of manual coal extraction that involves digging very narrow, vertical shafts into the earth through which miners descend to extract coal. Miners descend into the pits using ropes or bamboo ladders, without safety gear. Coal is then manually extracted using primitive tools such as pickaxes, shovels and baskets. The tunnels used are generally only big enough for a single miner to descend at a time.

Rescue operation underway. (Photo IANS/Rameshwar Gaur)

In our conflicts with our adversaries, ultimately it has been found that the “Man behind the Machine” has won the wars for us; as our adversaries have been reportedly better equipped than us, in past. Something, similar happened in this situation at Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi district. When machines broke and no options were visible, the teams of ‘Rat Miners’ inclusive of Wakeel Hassan, Nasir Khan, Rashid Ansari, Munna Qureshi, Irshad Ansari, Ferozre Qureshi, Naseem malik, Monu Kumar, Jatin, Devender Kumar, Saurabh and Ankur brought the much desired smile and relief for the Nation. Illegal mining practioners did the most laudable job where the latest machinery failed to excel. 

All of this indeed involved management & monitoring at various levels in the government. The management of the rescue operation was entrusted to the PM’s ex- Advisor and Ministers directly in charge, Nitin Gadkari and Hardeep Singh Puri who shuttled between New Delhi & tunnel site, several times. Indian army was also brought in mid-way in the rescue operation, Gen VK Singh (Retd), a former Army Chief and now a minister, too pitched in his efforts. Not to be left behind, the Chief Minister, Pushkar Singh Dhami spent a few hours each day to be at hand to take any tricky decision. PM Modi, relieved at the success of the operation conveyed “I want to say to the friends who were trapped in the tunnel that your courage and patience is inspiring everyone. I wish you all well and good health”.

ALSO READ: India has walked the talk when it comes to climate action, says Modi

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Odisha Train Accident: Death Toll Mounts to 233

Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Saturday reached the spot of the tragic train derailment in Odisha’s Balasore district that claimed the lives of 233 people and took stock of the situation, reports Asian Lite news

The death toll in the tragic train derailment in Odisha’s Balasore district has increased to 233, with at least more than 900 people injured, the state’s Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena confirmed on Saturday.

On Friday evening, 17 coaches of the Coromandel Express and SMVT-Howrah Super Fast Express derailed, leading to one of the worst railway accidents in the country in the last 15 years.

More than 200 ambulances along with 30 buses have been pressed into service, the Chief Secretary said.

The Railways have also announced an inquiry by A.M. Chodhary, CRS/SE Circle.

A rescue operation by the NDRF, ODRAF, Odisha Fire Service along with several volunteer organisations kept the search for survivors and bodies trapped in the heap of mangled coaches on throughout the night.

A senior Railway Ministry official in Delhi said the exact number of casualties will only be clear once the entire wreckage is sifted through.

He said that the rescue operation is still underway.

High-level inquiry ordered

Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Saturday reached the accident spot in Odisha’s Balasore and took stock of the situation and assured to conduct a detailed high-level inquiry on the mishap.

“A detailed high-level inquiry will be conducted and the rail safety commissioner will also do an independent inquiry,” Vaishnaw said. “Our focus is on rescue and relief operations. Restoration will begin after clearance from the district administration,” he said.

Speaking on the accident he called it tragic and said, “It’s a big tragic accident. Railway, NDRF, SDRF, and State govt are conducting the rescue operation. The best possible healthcare facilities will be provided.”

He further said, “Compensation was announced on Friday. A high-level committee has also been formed to inquire about it.”

The Odisha government has declared a day of mourning on Saturday after the train derailment.

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J&K Workers Party marks Kargil Vijay Divas

President Mir Junaid addresses people on the 23rd Anniversary of Kargil Vijay Divas. He narrates the inspiring stories of martyrs and reviewed the preparation of Har Ghar Tiranga campaign

On the 23rd anniversary of Kargil Vijay Divas, Mir Junaid, President J&K Workers Party, addressed the rural population of Kashmir. During the various meetings, Mir narrated the stories of brave martyrs who sacrificed their lives to protect the sovereignty and integrity of India.

Mir Junaid, President J&K Workers Party, paying tributes to martyrs

The crowd was also extremely enthusiastic about volunteering for Har Ghar Tiranga initiative.

The campaign under the aegis of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav to encourage people to hoist Tiranga to mark the 75th year of India’s independence. Pertinently, the citizens of J&K too are putting their efforts on ground to make the event a grand success is J&K. The event is certainly imbibing and cultivating the nationalistic and patriotic fervours among the youngsters.

Mir also requested the religious heads of Kashmir to encourage people to participate in this grand event.

Event at War Memorial

Lt. General A.D.S. Aujla, GOC Chinar Corps on behalf of all the ranks of the Corps paid homage to the Kargil War heroes in a solemn ceremony held at the War Memorial in Badami Bagh Cantonment here on Tuesday.

The proceedings included brief narration of the Kargil War highlighting the saga of courage and valour of the martyrs, prayers by religious teachers and laying of wreaths in proud remembrance of the valiant heroes who participated in the operations.

“The Chinar Corps on this historic day remembers the 527 gallant soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice.

Kashmiris holding Kargil Vijay Diwas Mashaal during a Trianga boat rally in River Jhelum during the celebrations of Kargil Vijay Diwas in Srinagar-Umar Ganie (2)

“We also salute the serving soldiers and veterans who took part in the tough battle at treacherous heights along the Line of Control,” the army said.

Kargil Vijay Diwas is celebrated every year to commemorate India’s spectacular victory over Pakistan on this day in 1999. Indian Army launched ‘Operation Vijay’ in May 1999 to evict the Pakistani Army intruders from the Kargil heights.

Intruders from Northern Light Infantry (Part of Pakistani Regular Army) had treacherously occupied these heights in an attempt to endanger the vital Srinagar-Leh National Highway.

After over 60 days of war, the Indian Army with Chinar Corps at the forefront of the battle triumphed over the Pakistan Army and chased them out completely from the heights of Drass, Mushkoh, Kaksar and Batalik.

Recognising the indomitable courage in the face of the enemy, four Param Vir Chakras, nations highest gallantry award along with many others were awarded to the gallant warriors of the Kargil war.

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Soldier Shot dead during Firing Excercise

A British soldier from the Welsh Guards was accidentally shot dead during a live firing exercise, media reports said.

Sergeant Gavin Hillier, 35, was shot on Thursday during a night-time training exercise, Xinhua news agency quoted Times newspaper as saying in a report on Saturday.

Hillier, from Pontypool, served in the regiment’s motor transport platoon and was due to go Iraq this summer, the Evening Standard newspaper said.

The report adding that he had served in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past.

He was killed at the gunnery ranges at the Castlemartin training area in the Pembrokeshire coast national park.

An army spokesperson said: “The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

Previous incidents at the Castlemartin ranges have claimed the lives of soldiers.

In 2017, Corporals Matthew Hatfield and Darren Neilson of the Royal Tank Regiment died from injuries they suffered after their tank exploded during a training exercise on a firing range.

A 21-year-old soldier, Michael “Mike” Maguire, died at Castlemartin in 2012 after being shot in the head while relaxing at a safe location just outside the training range.

A 2013 inquest into his death heard he was hit in the temple by a single machine gun bullet fired by a fellow soldier during a training exercise.

The inquest jury ruled Maguire, who was a member of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment, had been unlawfully killed.