Chasnala - The Story of Betrayal of Independence

Submitted by rajat on Tue, 20-Mar-2012 - 19:11

"The Chasnala Mine Disaster occurred on the evening of 27 December 1975, and killed 372 miners in ,Dhanbad, India. "

The Explosion

"On 27 December 1975, an explosion rocked the Chasnala Colliery in Dhanbad, India. The explosion was most likely caused by sparks from equipment igniting a pocket of flammable methane gas. Even a small spark can ignite the surges of gas that may suddenly fill a mine. Clouds of coal dust raised by the explosion and accompanying shock wave contribute to these sorts of mine explosions, making the flames self-sustaining.

The Chasnala Colliery explosion was so severe that the mine collapsed, and millions of gallons of water from a nearby reservoir rushed into the pits at a rate of seven million gallons per minute. Those miners who weren’t killed in the blast now found themselves trapped under debris, or drowned as the water quickly filled the mine. Rescue workers continued their efforts to dig out bodies and survivors until 19 January 1976. Sadly, there were no survivors, and most of the bodies were never recovered. "

The Loss

"The local workers' union claimed a total death toll of almost 700 people. The government’s official death toll, however, is 372. The Chasnala Colliery’s records were poorly kept, and many bodies were never recovered, so there is no way of knowing how many miners actually perished in the Chasnala Mine Disaster. The India Iron and Steel Company, who owned the Chasnala Colliery, has said that it conformed to international mining standards in the construction and maintenance of the Chasnala Colliery."

Post Disaster

"There is no news about how these families of the victims were rehabilitated. When a filmmaker wanted to make a film on the disaster, he was denied permission. Though someone in fine print in the Chemistry Textbooks of Class 12 they mention about the Bhopal Gas Tragedy there is no word of Chasnala that I had come across having finished education. Some stories are written to be forgotten - not to be remembered and learnt from. Some interviews with the people who suffered from the disaster at Chasnala have been reported which show the apathy of the company and the Government towards the victims."

Then comes the Slap

" In connection with a coal mine disaster on December 27, 1975 in Chasnala colliery in Dhanbad, two former Indian Iron and Steel Company (IISCO) officials were awarded imprisonment by the Court on Thursday, 15th March 2012" - (ex-officials, 2012)

If my wife had not picked up the words floating on the internet I would have barely noticed. But when I did, and when I set up to see how justice was delivered to those who are responsible for murder of 372 people, I was shocked!

"DHANBAD: A 37-year long wait for justice ended on Friday when first class judicial magistrate Yogesh Kumar Singh passed his judgment on the Chasnala colliery tragedy which took place on December 27, 1975. On that fateful day, 375 miners were killed in a blast inside the mines, 20 km from here.

Singh convicted the then agent and manager of Chasnala colliery, a branch of the Indian Iron and Steel Company (IISCO), with one year's rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5,000 each. Two other accused in the case, J N Ohri and S K Banerjee, died during the trial. The court also convicted the then agent, planning and group security officer Dipak Sarkar and then manager Ramanuj Bhattacharya to one year RI and fined Rs 5,000 each. However, they were released on bail on Thursday and given one month to file an appeal against the order, if they desired." Other news links which reported the verdict are here: - http://telegraphindia.com/1120319/jsp/jharkhand/story_15266725.jsp - http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=755774

An intense sense of pain, shame and anger is gripping me since I read these words. This is not real! This is not real! No, I don't believe what I am witnessing.

I am unable to answer a few questions to myself. I am unable to stand the thought that I am silently witnessing the murder of justice, the murder of the basic principles on which an institution like a Government stands. I stand here witness to my own helplessness, my own inaction and to my pain. I stand criminal in my own court trying to find answers to the following questions:

  • Immediately following the disaster why was no attempt made to ascertain the exact extent of damage? If the Government was happier with the cover up then at that same moment it had also decided to turn it's eyes away from all those bodies which were never dug out - and consequently the numerous lives associated with them.
  • Why is it that there is nothing - absolutely nothing available which puts up in a straightforward kind of a manner what exactly was done for those families? Why is the verdict limited to punishing and not rehabilitating and compensations?
  • Why is it that the system took 37 years to reach a decision. Is this justice? Most of the people who were the victims in one way or the other must have walked too far in life to make any sense out of this?
  • The miners are healthy male members of the community who bear the responsibility of providing for the old, the women and the young members of the family. It was not the number cited that died that day. It left behind numerous more lives hanging by the thread in an impoverished area that this region of the country was. Did no one, absolutely no one in this democracy feel the need to provide organised assistance for livelihood of these people.
  • And what did the judge do? What did he do? What did he do? Why did he pass this judgement at all? Rs 5000/- and 1 year in jail? Are we talking about a robber who stole a cycle from the house next door? What example does this man in the court - the justice - the 'Your Honour' wants to set? Is he not the Hilton of modern day?
  • Who are these insensitive, inhuman souls who choose to represent the people of their land? They have the time to congratulate individuals for their success at sports, but they do not have the time to do anything - absolutely anything for the victims of such a massive human tragedy?
  • Two days after the verdict there is a news report - " Ranchi, Mar 17 (PTI) Jharkhand assembly today showered accolades on 'Little Master' Sachin Tendulkar on his glorious feat of century of centuries in international cricket. Amidst thumping of desks, the house passed the resolution congratulating the cricketer. "The house congratulates Sachin Tendulkar for his stupendous feat," Speaker C P Singh said and wished the 39-year-old batting legend to accomplish more laurels on cricketing field. Tendulkar reached the coveted milestone in an Asia Cup tie against Bangladesh yesterday." (Jharkhand-assembly-congratulates-tendulkar)

 

Am I overreacting? Should I just accept things as they are? Should I just console myself and move on?
Heading my Head in Shame How can an engineering student pass out without knowing what Chasnala is? Is that not the whole point of education? Is it enough to teach formulas and laws? Will we continue to have engineers who walk into the real world without the realisation of what negligence on their part can lead to?

I am an educated young man of this country - the future and the bearer of responsibility - who today finds himself face to face with the uncomfortable truth. I stand silently watching injustice, silently witness mockery of human lives, silently watching the Netas enjoy their party, silently watching the dreams of freedom go down the drain! In shame I stand today!

Works Cited

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20-Mar-2012 - 20:22

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Its a shame.. One can still visit the place and see underground fumes.. People do know about the disaster but sadly pass on because 'it happens in mining industry'....