Pressure from powerful political figures, the media and opposition parties in the wake of an accident which killed around 140 miners in an illegal coal mine has forced the Indian government to mount a crackdown on illegal mining in the country's eastern coal belt. But analysts fear that long running collusion between police and illegal mine operators will undermine attempts to close the industry which is putting the lives of thousands of miners at risk. Police initially tried to play down the August 1 accident at Gangtikuli in West Bengal state by reporting that nobody was hurt. But extensive media coverage and a campaign by senior political figures exposed both the severity of the accident and the hazardous conditions that prevail across the industry. In a letter to the government, Dilip Sarkar, a former legislator of the state's ruling Communist Party of India, said that every year at least 1,200 miners died in more than 6,000 illegal mines in West Bengal and that authorities had to act. West Bengal's Chief Secretary Amit Kiran Deb said yesterday that since the accident police had closed about 900 illegal mines and that the government 'would spare no means to stop illegal mining'. But social analysts have expressed doubts about the ability of the government to shut down the mines. 'For decades the police-mafia nexus has been in place. It is very difficult to dismantle this network of corruption. The long arm of organised crime can reach very high in the police administration. In one case action was taken against a police officer found to be in collusion with the coal mafia. But the officer who replaced him was found to be equally corrupt,' said Kanchan Siddiqui, a commentator in Calcutta's Daily Statesman. One operator of an illegal coalmine in the Bardhaman district of West Bengal who employs about 120 miners admitted to paying a monthly bribe of 25,000 rupees (HK$4,185) to the police. He said when rain stopped work he did not pay the bribe. 'Sometimes they become angry and ask me to send the men to the pit as soon as possible. Sometimes I even feel that I am in this business to serve police or, I am employed by the police,' he said. Another illegal mine operator said many workers were prepared to brave the dangerous conditions because they can earn twice as much as the average rural labourer. He said even if the mines were closed, the workers themselves would find a way to mine the precious coal.