Padma Award for the brave heart and decorated Mining Engineer Late Jaswant Singh Gill
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Born on 13th April 1940 into a simple family Jaswant Singh Gill did his schooling from Khalsa School and then joined Khalsa College Amritsar from where he graduated in 1959 completing his B.Sc Non Medical. An outstanding student he was awarded the college colour Blue.
He joined ISM Dhanbad in 1961and completed his mining in 1965. He cleared the Second class and First Class mine manager exams in his first attempts. Initially he worked for KCT but joined CIL when coal mining was nationalized. After an illustrious career he retired on 30th April 1998 from BCCL HQs from the post of ED Safety and Rescue.
The incident dates back to November 13, 1989 when at about 4 a.m., 232 miners employed underground in the night shift at Mahabir Mine of RaniGanj area of West Bengal reported heavy flow of water in the mine from an overhead abandoned pit . Out of them, 161 miners working in the vicinity of the shafts came out, however the remaining 71 could not be rescued due to flooding of the roadways leading to the shafts. Through a telephonic conversation with the trapped miners it was learnt that 65 miners had taken shelter at a risen part underground while 6 had drowned and saving the lives of these miners seemed a challenging task.
It was promptly decided by the rescue team to install as many submersible pumps as possible to dewater the mine and also drilling of boreholes to establish communication with trapped miners in-order to supply them with torches, food, drinking water and medicines etc. But unfortunately this didn’t seem enough. It was then that Sh. Jaswant Singh Gill, Addl. Chief Mining Engineer who was not in any way connected to Mahabir Mine but had voluntarily joined the rescue operation, came up with a brilliant plan of fabricating a steel capsule that could be lowered into a new borehole to be drilled indigenously with a diameter of 22 inches to rescue the trapped men one by one. Not just this, when two persons who were sounded to go down in the capsule disappeared out of fear, the brave heart volunteered to descend down in the capsule and organised orderly evacuation of the miners. Despite opposition by top officers, he insisted on leading the operation and went down without any fear. With the water level rising in the closed mine, oxygen depleting rapidly and the fear of complete subsidence of the mine, it seemed as if he was descending to his own certain death. The fearless engineer stuck to his decision and went down into the 330 feet deep coal mine at 2:30 am on the night of 15 th - 16th November in the crazily spinning steel capsule. As the capsule landed in the watery patch on November 16, 1989 at 2:50 a.m., he himself picked the first person he saw, put him in the capsule and signaled for the capsule to be hoisted. After a strenuous operation that lasted for 6 hours, he successfully saved the lives of 65 miners who were brought up one by one. It is pertinent to mention that the capsule went down empty 65 times but no one had the courage to join him , leave alone relieve him. Sh. Jaswant Singh Gill was the last of all to emerge from the capsule at 8:30 am on 16th November. Over 20,000 people from the nearby areas witnessed this nerve-wracking rescue operation and the lion-hearted Sh. Jaswant Singh Gill emerged as a real hero. This historic act of bravery is etched in the history of mining and 16th November is celebrated by Coal India Ltd. as ‘Rescue Day’ each year.
For this gallant act, Sh. Jaswant Singh Gill was honoured with India's highest Bravery Award ‘Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak’ by the Honorable President of India in 1991. The operation has also been mentioned in the World Book of Records as ‘World’s largest coal mine rescue operation’ and in Limca Book of Records as a national record. He has been recognised with multiple national and international accolades. Sadly he passed away on 26th November last year and it would go a long way in enhancing his legacy if he is decorated with the Padma award posthumously.
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