Unsung mining heroes brave odds to produce coal, keep power plants running

New Delhi: Undeterred by the fear of death, 57-year-old Asif Khan has kept his nose to the grindstone to dig out coal so that the country’s power plants can keep running at a time when people have been forced to stay indoors due to the COVID-19 crisis.

With the country confronted with an unprecedented situation, Khan, who works in the Kamptee open cast mine of Coal India arm WCL, said it was time to serve the nation “the way a soldier fearlessly keeps his life at stake to guard his country against the enemies.”

Khan considers the COVID-19 crisis as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to serve the country by reporting to work amid all the risks.

“If me and many like me don’t go to work, who would produce coal,” he asked.

“I don’t want that a situation arises when in the absence of coal, the country’s power houses come to a standstill, and in the absence of electricity, the hospitals which are treating corona virus patients collapse,” Khan told over phone.

There are many more mine workers like Khan who have braved the risks associated with the pandemic to fulfil their professional duties.

Shiv Kumar Yadav is one such worker. He has been at the frontline since the beginning of crisis, producing coal so that Coal India Ltd (CIL) is able to meet its output target and keep electricity generators well-supplied during summers when the fuel demand shoots up drastically.

Yadav was haunted by the fear of COVID-19 when the countrywide lockdown began.

“My son said ‘papa please don’t go. God forbid, if you get infected so would we’,” Yadav reminisces.

However, Yadav says he did not succumb to the pressure of his family, adding that a sense of duty and urge to serve the nation makes him and his colleagues report to work even in these trying times.

Another coal miner Ranjeet Singh said, “We all are putting our best so that Coal India does not die.”

Gopal Singh owes a lot to the Coal India management, particularly his immediate boss Diwakar Gokhale, who is Area General Manager (Nagpur Area) of Western Coalfields Ltd (WCL), for his “never-say-die” spirit.

To motivate the workers, the company undertakes various initiatives.

Recently, under the leadership of Gokhale, the workers were given floral tributes and applauded heartily when they came out of the mine after completing their shift.

A special team of four-five members was flown from Nagpur to the mines, some 40 kms away, for the initiative.

All social distancing norms were followed, Gokhale said, adding that miners have to be motivated in such challenging times.

The company has also taken several steps to ensure safety of its workers.

Beside providing masks, foot-operated wash basins have been installed at vulnerable places in all the mines of the Nagpur area, with the city reporting many coronavirus cases.

Sanitation of all heavy earth moving machines takes place in all the three working shifts on a daily basis, he added.

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