Corruption, Govt Apathy Boosts Illegal Mining in Jharkhand
Lack of livelihood opportunities is forcing hundreds of poor Indians take up illegal mining in Jharkhand. Here is an IndiaUnheard video by Mukesh Rajak that captures the ugly dark truth
Illegal coal mining is widespread in Jharkhand, India’s largest coal producer state. An estimated 7,20,000 tonnes of coal is smuggled every year in the state, causing a loss of 34 billion rupees. Most of it this huge illegal empire is controlled by an organized syndicate of coal mafia.
However, dozens of villages across Deogarh and Giridih districts, people engaged in illegal mining are poor village. They also belong to marginalized communities like IU correspondent Mukesh does, who have been denied of rights to livelihood.
They mine coal from three sources:
- A shallow village-dug coal pit,
- An abandoned mine and
- Dumps of legally mined coal, waiting uploading and dispatch to different destinations
While some dig the coal, some work carry the sacks of coal on their cycles and push from the mines to neighbouring towns to sell them. The latter are known as ‘Cycle wallahs’. Their clientele includes individual houses, shops, particularly food stalls, and local brickfields.
Both the coal diggers and the cyclewallahs risk being buried under the sudden caving in of a mine’s roof. More than 350 people have lost their lives in illegal coal mining in the last 15 years. Since they were mining illegally, no compensation or aid is ever provided to the victim’s family.
If they escape being arrested, they are still at risk of getting arrested under the Goonda Act - law enforced by the govt to curb illegal mining.
The earning of these people just Rs 200 a day – extremely paltry compared to the high risk they take. Even this amount is not guaranteed.
Mukeshwho meets these people regularly feels that they resort to illegal mining not to make profits, but to earn a livelihood. Most of them have been denied a livelihood under govt’s rural employment scheme such as NREGA. Some, as the illegal miner in the video, are stopped from joining office even after getting a job because corrupt officials ask for bribes which they can not pay.
Mukesh believes the entire gamut of illegal coal mining, transportation, and distribution network that is in place in the colliery tracts of India. To tackle with the organized mafia-run illegal mining, the govt needs to enforce stringent laws.
But to deal with petty crimes committed by poor Dalitss the govt should rather doesn’t address the reasons – unemployment and poverty – that force these people into the crime.
Mukesh feels the poor illegal miners, most of who dig coal along with their wives and children, can be easily rehabilitated if the govt implements its schemes that are made for these people.
Rumours are rife about the Maoist rebels - very active in tribal districts of Jharkhand - stepping into mining sector, imposing taxes on miners and also recruiting cadres from the poor families. If the govt doesn't reach out the poor illegal miners now, it will not be surprising to see them joining the Maoist army tomorrow - something that happened in Chattisgarh.
Tags: Jharkhand , Corruption , Govt Apathy , Mukesh Rajak , Deogarh , Giridih , Mine , Coal , Illegal Mining , Mafia
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