The rat-hole miners who played a vital role in the evacuation of 41 workers trapped in the Silkyara tunnel have refused to encash the cheques of Rs 50,000 given to them recently by Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.
The rat-hole miners said the chief minister's gesture was "not commensurate" with the role they had played.
"It was a desperate situation. We chipped in when the machines had failed to reach the trapped workers. We drilled manually through the debris risking our lives without putting any preconditions. We appreciate the gesture of the chief minister but are not satisfied with the amount that was given to us," Vakil Hassan, who headed the team of the rat-hole miners, told PTI.
"The role of rat-hole miners in the operation was heroic but what they got from the government was sadly not adequate," he said.
The 12 rat-hole miners honoured by the state government have collectively decided not to encash the cheques, he said.
"I conveyed our dissatisfaction to the chief minister the day the cheques were handed to us. We returned after being assured by the officials that some announcement regarding us will be made in a couple of days. However, if the promise is not kept, we will return the cheques," Hassan said.
Hassan said permanent jobs for the rat-hole miners who helped in the operation is what they expect from the state government.
Munna, a rat-hole miner who works for Rockwell Enterprises, a firm headed by Hassan, and was among the first to reach the trapped workers said, the amount given to them was not adequate considering the kind of effort they put in to rescue the trapped workers.
"We literally entered the jaws of death to rescue the trapped workers. We did not listen to our family members as human lives had to be saved," he said.
"Cheques of Rs 50,000 is too paltry a sum to acknowledge our role. It lowers our morale. A permanent job or a house to live in would have been more appropriate," Munna, who lives in an 8/10 room with his children, said.
Chief Minister Dhami on Thursday honoured 12 rat-hole miners with cheques of Rs 50,000 each.
The rat-hole miners had manually drilled the final stretch of about 15 metres through the debris in the collapsed part of the tunnel in claustrophobic conditions to prepare an escape passage made of MS steel pipes for the trapped workers.
Rat-hole mining was the last strategy adopted by the rescuers after several attempts to reach the workers with the help of auger machines failed to produce the desired results.
The workers had remained locked up in a part of the tunnel for seventeen days after its partial collapse on November 12.
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