Mission Raniganj: The Great Bharat Rescue

Mission Raniganj: The Great Bharat Rescue
Mission Raniganj: The Great Bharat Rescue
Home » Mission Raniganj: The Great Bharat Rescue

After Mission Mangal and Kesari, a new mission awaits Akshay Kumar in Mission Raniganj: The Great Bharat Rescue. Vipul K Rawal has written the film and Tinu Suresh Desai directed it, where the actor will essay the role of mining expert Jaswant Singh Gill. As per the trailer, Gill was successful in saving 65 miners from a flooded mine in Mission Raniganj, West Bengal.

Why is this incident significant? Why did Gill become a hero post this rescue operation? And why did he receive ‘Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak’ from Ramaswamy Venkataraman, the then President of India?” reads an explainer on indianexpress.com.

Who is Jaswant Singh Gill?

Jaswant Singh Gill was born in Amritsar in 1940. He studied at Khalsa School and went on to pursue BSc (non-medical) from Khalsa College (Amritsar). Later he pursued BSc (Honours) from Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad. Thereafter he joined Coal India Limited in 1973. Climbing ranks 1-9 throughout his career, Gill retired in 1998 as Engineer-in-chief. His most prominent act during his over two-decade-long stint was at Mahabir Colliery, Raniganj, West Bengal where he rescued 65 miners who were trapped inside a coal mine filled with water. After this feat he also came to be known as Capsule Gill.

What happened at Mahabir Colliery in West Bengal in November 1989?

On November 13, 1989, when coal excavation through explosions had reached towards the rise-most area of the mine which was about 320 feet deep underground; there occurred what can be called one of world’s biggest mining disasters — both on accounts of number of people killed and miraculous number of people saved. This area had a number of tubs to bring up coal and two lifts for miners. A total of 232 miners were employed in the night shift that day.

Around 4 am, there was an influx of water into the mine, which got flooded within minutes. The 161 men who were near the two lifts could be brought out without much hassle but 71 other miners working at a distance from these lifts could not reach because of rising water. It so happened that those 71 took shelter at rise part and six among them went missing but through telephone connection between borehole and surface it was conveyed that still some where about 65 are alive.

Realising that so many people got trapped inside, authorities formed four teams to rescue them. While three teams went on trying different methods to bring out the men; if we go by Gill’s own account as given above several submersible pumps were put into mine for pumping out water which used to recirculate inside the mine while pumped-out water found its way back through cracks in surface; also oxygen level in mine was depleting rapidly, moreover whole mine might collapse anytime.

It was then when senior engineer Jaswant Gill — part of fourth team — came up with an idea that no one could have ever thought about. “My father started to innovate on a theoretical idea that had never been put to practical use. It involved fabricating a steel capsule about 7 feet high and 22 inches in diameter, creating a new borehole to lower the capsule into the mine and taking out the miners one by one,” shared Sarpreet Singh Gill with The Tribune.

The steel capsule was made in 72 hours and after a couple trial runs up and down the borehole, rescue of men began on November 16 at 2.30 am. Gill insisted on entering the capsule himself to bring out the trapped men. After initial opposition from top officials of Coal India Limited, Gill entered the capsule and brought out all of the 65 men one by one by 8:30 am. Initially, it took 15 minutes for one round trip of the capsule. So, a 12-tonne crane was used to lower and raise the capsule which reduced cycle time to just 3 minutes.

There were over twenty thousand people who gathered to see the rescue operation in Mission Raniganj. “It took me six hours to bring up the 65 miners one by one and last of all, when I came out of the capsule, people went mad with joy,” Gill once told The Tribune. He added that as soon as he got out, people lifted him on their shoulders and put garlands around his neck.

How was Jaswant Singh Gill rewarded for his act of courage?

To commemorate Gill’s act of bravery, Coal India Ltd declared November 16 as ‘Rescue Day’. Limca Book of Records has recognized this operation as a national record in coal mining history.

Gill also received the highest civilian bravery award ‘Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak’ from President Ramaswamy Venkataraman in 1991.

Until his death in two thousand nineteen, Gill remained active in his social welfare work.

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