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‘Capsule Gill’ Biopic: True Story of Mining Engineer Jaswant Gill, Who Saved 65 Lives

'Capsule Gill', a biopic on the life of chief mining engineer Jaswant Gill who rescued 65 miners, is set to be made soon. Here, we look into the story of the hero behind this film.

‘Capsule Gill’ Biopic: True Story of Mining Engineer Jaswant Gill, Who Saved 65 Lives

Akshay Kumar is all set to start shooting for Capsule Gill, a biopic on the life of Jaswant Singh Gill. While working as a chief mining engineer, Gill saved the lives of 65 people when a coal mine in Raniganj, West Bengal, was flooded.

The mine was flooded on 13 November 1989 and 220 miners were inside. The incident occurred when someone touched the upper seam of the mine accidentally and water gushed in, according to a report in The Asian Age.

While many workers managed to evacuate the mine in two lifts, 71 miners were trapped as the shafts filled with water. Six people drowned and 65 were trapped.

According to a report in the Asian Age, four teams were formed for the rescue operations. One team came up with an idea to dig a parallel tunnel and join it with the mine. Another team tried to reach the mine through the route from where water was seeping in, but that didn’t work out either.

How Gill came up with the idea of a capsule


Jaswant Singh with a replica of the capsule
Mining Engineer Jaswant Singh Gill with a replica of the capsule he used to save 65 miners

The team led by Gill came up with the idea of making a steel capsule that could carry one person at a time. The capsule was to be sent through the borewell hole.

In an interview with SBS Punjabi, Gill recalled that the authorities had to drill multiple bore wells to communicate with the miners and send them food and drinking water.

“We drilled another well to send a rescue capsule to pull them out. A 2.5 m tall steel capsule was fabricated on the spot. It was attached to an iron rope and crane to be lowered into the pit. I volunteered to go down for this rescue mission,” Gill told SBS Punjabi.

Gill’s son Dr Sarpreet Singh said that his father got a 22-inch bore drilled at the most likely high point where the miners may have taken shelter.

“His study was perfect as the bore­hole was connected at the exact point where the trapped min­ers had as­sem­bled. Oxy­gen was de­plet­ing and the roof of the mine was slowly col­laps­ing. All the trapped min­ers had given up any hope of com­ing out alive. My father immediately got drilling rigs hired and started the process of mak­ing the new bore­hole at the ear­li­est. The biggest chal­lenge was that the drilling bits had a max­i­mum di­am­e­ter of eight inches. This was over­come by weld­ing new bits on the older bits, then weld­ing a plate on them, and again weld­ing new bits on the plate to make the bore 22 inches in di­am­e­ter,” he told World Sikh News.

Gill drew plans for the capsule and sent them to a fabrication factory nearby. The capsule was ready by midnight of 15 November, with a steel rope to be lowered into the bore.

Singh said that two rescue personnel who were to go down in the capsule were not found, and his father volunteered for the mission, despite protests from senior officials. He said he entered the capsule at 2:30 am on 16 November 1989.

“As soon as he opened the front hatch of the cap­sule, he saw 65 scared faces in front of him with the fear of im­pend­ing death writ large on their faces. He caught hold of the near­est worker, put him into the cap­sule, and sig­nalled with a ham­mer he was car­ry­ing for the cap­sule to be hoisted up. He then turned to the re­main­ing min­ers and asked if any of them were in­jured or sick. The first nine to­kens were given to those who had in­juries and those who had a fever. Af­ter 7-8 rounds, when it was ap­par­ent that the cap­sule was func­tion­ing smoothly, the man­ual winch was re­placed with a me­chan­i­cal one. At 8:30 am on 16 No­vem­ber, my fa­ther came back to the sur­face af­ter send­ing out all the 65 min­ers to safety,” Singh said.

As he finally stepped out of the capsule, he was greeted with applause. Two years later, he was awarded the Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak by then president Ramaswamy Venkataraman. He has received many accolades after that, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Coal India.

“You only get one life, you need to make it count…Everything happened so suddenly that no one had the time to think,” Gill told SBS Punjabi.

Gill died on 26 November 2019.


Will miner par ex­cel­lence Jaswant Singh Gill get due recog­ni­tion by Pun­jab and Sikhs?’ by Dr Sarpreet Singh for The World Sikh News, Published in September 2021

‘Remembering the bravery of an engineer who saved 64 trapped coal miners’ by Preetinder Grewal for SBS Punjabi, Published on 16 September, 2018

‘Film on the engineer who rescued trapped miners on cards’ by Tanveer Thakur for The Asian Age, Published on 10 June, 2017

Edited by Divya Sethu

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