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On October 20th in Shilong, Border Security Force (BSF) troopers have arrested 33 more illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, who were working as coal miners in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district.

The Bangladeshi nationals were arrested on late Friday night from Kuliang and Umkiang village near the India-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya while they were attempting to cross over to Bangladesh.

With Friday’s night arrests, the number of arrested illegal Bangladesh immigrants by the Indian border guards has gone up to 81 this month alone.

The troopers also seized an amount of Rs.3, 368,200 in cash, 16 mobile handsets with 13 Indian and 6 Bangladesh SIM cards and garments from the Bangladesh nationals.

Gandhi said Zainal, who is a Bangladeshi national of Kanaighat area in Sylhet district, was also arrested.

“Zainal is a prize catch for us since he is the main man who facilitated the Bangladeshi nationals in criss-crossing the internal border movement in lieu of money”

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 is because of high demand of cheap labour in coal mining areas, manual jobs and porous and poor security along the India-Bangladesh border.

The official said, “We cannot deny that there are no illegal Bangladeshi nationals working in the coal mines across Meghalaya and they (Bangladeshi nationals) are engaged in the mining activities since the local tribesmen don’t dare to enter the coal pits.”

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 sq.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.

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