MAC: Mines and Communities

Mine Of Corpses: Hope Amidst Grief And Pain

Published by MAC on 2006-12-12
Source: Gomantak Times ()

Mine of Corpses: Hope amidst grief and pain

by Preetu Nair, Gomantak Times, Panjim edition

12th December 2006

SANGUEM/SOUTH GOA/ INDIA

From Lalita Mirashi's eyes flows pain that falls drop by drop into the heart. Her pain is immense and grief is endless. Her strained face reflects hope. Only, there isn't any left.

Her husband, Satish, was buried alive in an enormous landslide at Tollem mine in Sanguem taluka on Saturday, leaving a two month pregnant Lalita with three little daughters, a widowed mother-in-law and an unmarried sister-in-law.

It is a heartrending scene as she holds on to her children in desperation and uncertainty, wails loudly, screams in pain and then falls unconscious in her two-room 'kutcha' house in Dharginim. Neighbors explain, "She has not eaten anything since Saturday. She is pregnant and the shock is unbearable for her. On Sunday, we had to take her to a private hospital where the doctor put her on a drip and kept her under observation for sometime." Her three children smile and play, too young to realize their mother's suffering.

In between bouts of consciousness and unconsciousness, Lalita reveals that till the landslide killed Satish; he eked out a living by working double shift at the mining unit run by Radha Timblo. He worked as a Supervisor. "We don't have any agricultural land nor have any other source of income. My husband was the only one in the family with a steady income. My younger brother-in-law has just started work," she revealed. Satish was earning Rs 100 per shift of 8 hours and he often did double shift to meet the family's monthly expenses.

Satish's younger sister Bharati, who sat next to Lalita is silent and stares speechlessly. She was the first to learn that her brother was buried alive in the mine. "We rushed to the spot and Bharati was shocked at the sight there. She knew that she had lost her brother forever. Disappointed and shocked into disbelief we managed to return home," whispers her friend Jayanti Velip, even as from the dark, dingy kitchen we hear an elderly woman wailing. The woman we learn is Satish's mother. Relatives reveal that she believes that her son would survive the landslide, walk into the house soon, calling out for his, "ayee".

If Lalita lost a loving husband in the landslide, then Ulhas Bhandari from Ugem saw his 21-year-old son, Sunny, being buried under the debris. He called out for help, but in vain. "Five minutes wait made the difference between life and death. Sunny had finished work, but waited five minutes to get a lift in the Volvo, which was about to finish loading. It was Sunny's last trip for the day," recollects Ulhas. Little did the family realise that this was to be the last trip of his life.

Ulhas looks stoic but his words have the stamp of desolation. "I don't know why such a tragedy has hit our family? We have lost our young son," he says. Sunny had started working in the mine dropping out of school in standard IX. He was earning anything between Rs 1500 to 2500 a month, depending on the overtime he did.

The only consolation for Lalita and Ulhas, besides the other aggrieved families is that Mine owner Radha Timblo had visited their homes on Sunday with promises to help. But will any help that the Mining company provides, ever compensate for the loss of a husband or a young son?

Rs 2 lakh compensation

Meanwhile, Chetan Timblo, the owner of Tollem mine said that initially the six families would be paid Rs 2 lakh each. He emphasized that this is only the initial help and the Company will look after the families of those buried alive in the landslide. "Our priority still lies in extricating the bodies. All man power and equipment has been put to work to retrieve the bodies. We intend to order an internal inquiry into the unfortunate happening," he added.

Additional Collector to probe

Goa 's Minister of Mines Minister Digambar Kamat told GT that Additional Collector, North, Swapnil Naik has been appointed to probe into the disaster at Tollem mines. "The government has also asked the Company to pay initial compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the deceased, which the Company agreed," added Kamat. The search operations entered the third day, without much success.

Help flows from Congress party

The Congress block committees of Sanguem, Curchorem and Sanvordem have mobilized their members to assist people working at the site of the Tollem mining disaster by lending a helping hand. Besides, providing solace and moral support to the victims' families.

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