After successful portrayals in movies like Mission Mangal and Kesari, Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar is set to take on a new mission in his upcoming film, Mission Raniganj: The Great Bharat Rescue. The film sees him reprising the role of mining expert Jaswant Singh Gill and is written by Vipul K Rawal and directed by Tinu Suresh Desai. The recently released trailer offers a glimpse into the real-life story of Gill’s heroic efforts to rescue 65 miners from a flooded mine in Raniganj, West Bengal.
The Significance of the Raniganj Mining Rescue
The Raniganj mining rescue is not just a heroic tale; it’s a story of human determination and courage in the face of overwhelming odds. But what made this incident particularly important, and why was Jaswant Singh Gill celebrated for his actions? To understand this, we need to delve into the details of the event and Gill’s background.
Who Was Jaswant Singh Gill?
Jaswant Singh Gill, born in Amritsar in 1940, had a remarkable journey that led him to become a mining expert. He initially studied at Khalsa School and later pursued a BSc (non-medical) at Khalsa College in Amritsar. His academic journey continued at the prestigious Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, where he earned a BSc (Honours) degree. In 1973, he joined Coal India Limited and steadily climbed the ranks, eventually retiring in 1998 as Engineer-in-Chief. However, his most defining moment came during the Raniganj mining incident, where he earned the nickname “Capsule Gill” for his innovative rescue method.
The Raniganj Mining Disaster of 1989
On November 13, 1989, tragedy struck at the Mahabir Colliery in Raniganj, West Bengal. A total of 232 miners were working the night shift, attempting to excavate coal through explosions in the 320-foot-deep mine. At around 4 am, disaster struck as water flooded the mine, trapping 71 miners who couldn’t reach the safety of the lifts.
The situation was dire. The miners were stranded far from the exits, and time was running out. Authorities formed four rescue teams to save them. While three teams tried various methods to reduce the water level, the fourth team, led by senior engineer Jaswant Gill, came up with an audacious plan.
Innovation Under Pressure
Gill’s idea was groundbreaking: construct a steel capsule measuring 7 feet in height and 22 inches in diameter, create a new borehole to lower the capsule into the mine, and use it to evacuate the trapped miners one by one. The clock was ticking, and Gill and his team had to act swiftly.
Within an astonishing 72 hours, the steel capsule was built. After a few successful trial runs, the rescue operation commenced on November 16 at 2:30 am. Gill, displaying immense courage, insisted on being the first to enter the capsule and bring out the trapped miners himself.
Despite initial opposition from top officials, Gill’s plan proved successful. He heroically rescued all 65 miners by 8:30 am. The capsule initially took 15 minutes for a round trip, but with the addition of a 12-tonne crane, this time was reduced to just 3 minutes.
A Hero’s Welcome
As news of the successful rescue spread, a crowd of 20,000 people gathered in Raniganj to witness the operation. Gill’s efforts were met with jubilation and gratitude. When he emerged from the capsule after bringing up the last miner, the crowd erupted in joy. They lifted him on their shoulders and adorned him with garlands, celebrating his heroic feat.
Recognition and Legacy
To commemorate Gill’s extraordinary act of bravery, Coal India Ltd declared November 16 as ‘Rescue Day.’ Limca Book of Records certified this operation as a national record in the history of coal mining.
In 1991, Jaswant Singh Gill received the highest civilian bravery award, the ‘Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak,’ presented by President Ramaswamy Venkataraman.
Until his passing in 2019, Gill remained actively involved in social welfare work, leaving behind a legacy of courage and selflessness that continues to inspire generations.