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Meghalaya: From a rat hole miner to MBBS doctor, the journey of Dr Kamphereiei Pala

First Published: 15th May, 2024 20:37 IST

After spending years in the dark, hollow pits of illegal coal mines and risking his life as a rat hole miner, now almost 15 years later, Dr Pala is all

He was barely 12-13 years old when Dr. Kamphereiei Pala, now 25, used to put his life at risk as he squeezed himself to get into the narrow pits of a rat hole mine. He went through the perilous task of working at rat hole mines of Khliehsharin , Nohsyntiat, Lamyrsiang in Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya so that he could pay his school fees and also support his mother to take care of their family of six. Dr Pala was barely 12-13 years old then.

After spending years in the dark, hollow pits of illegal coal mines and risking his life as a rat hole miner, now almost 15 years later, Dr Pala, a resident of Moolamylliang village, one of the cleanest villages of Jaintia Hills, is all set to become a doctor. Currently, Dr Pala is interning at Guwahati Medical College.

Kamphereiei is one of the five children. Poverty and hardships never deterred him and he never gave up his studies. Besides working as a rat hole miner, he also worked as a helper in tea stalls to earn an extra buck.

The turning point in his life came when he secured 8th position in his Class 12 exams. This made him more determined and he ensured that despite all odds he would pursue his dreams of becoming a doctor.

Poverty and illiteracy has forced many young men of Meghalaya to risk their lives and work in the illegal rat hole mine which existed till recently. It is only after the National Green Tribunal banned all such illegal coal activities in the state that the age old practice of rat hole mining has almost ended. Several people have lost their lives in rat hole mine tragedies.

One of the worst rat hole mine accidents took place in December 2018 when 15 miners were trapped inside the illegal mine in Ksan, Meghalaya. In another more recent incident that took place in January this year, six workers were killed and four others were seriously injured after a fire broke out in a rat-hole coal mine in Nagaland’s Wokha district.

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