Shillong, Oct 26 (IANS) Border Security Force (BSF) troopers arrested 11 illegal Bangladeshi immigrants who were working as coal miners in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district, a BSF official said Friday.
The Bangladeshi nationals were arrested late Thursday night from Kuliang and Umkiang villages near the India-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya while they were attempting to cross over to Bangladesh, BSF spokesman Ravi Gandhi said.
With Thursday's arrests, the number of illegal Bangladesh immigrants arrested by the BSF has gone up to 92 this month alone.
The troopers also seized Rs.30,420, five mobile phones with four Indian and one Bangladesh SIM cards, and garments from the Bangladeshi nationals, Gandhi said.
During preliminary questioning, the immigrants said they were working as coal miners near Khlierihat area.
Meghalaya shares a 443-km border with Bangladesh, part of which is porous, hilly, unfenced and prone to frequent infiltration.
A government official said that the main factors responsible for influx of Bangladeshi nationals to Meghalaya are high demand for cheap labour in coal mining areas, manual jobs, and porous borders and poor security along the boundary.
"We cannot deny that there are illegal Bangladeshi nationals working in the coal mines across Meghalaya and they (Bangladeshi nationals) are engaged in mining activities since the local tribesmen don't enter the coal pits," the official told IANS on condition of anonymity.
Each miner gets paid on an hourly basis or for the number of coal filled trays they are able to scrap. Typically, in a day an experienced miner gets about Rs.300-Rs.500.
The coal is extracted by primitive surface mining method called "rat-hole" mining that entails clearing ground vegetation and digging pits ranging from five to 100 square metres to reach the coal seams.
Workers and children go deep into these holes and extract the coal using traditional tools. Makeshift bamboo ladders take miners down into the pits to chip away through two-feet-high tunnels.
Meghalaya has a total coal reserve of 640 million tonnes. The coal is high in sulphur content and is mostly of sub-bituminous type.