ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Kol Tribal Labourers: Breaking the Shackles

The kol tribals of Shankargarh have been working in bondage for generations, first to the princely state than to new entrepreneurs including the erstwhile ruler and owners of silica stone and sand quarries. Their struggle for liberation, although supported by sensitive bureaucrats and NGOs, is consistently stalled by the state and its political leaders.

Into the mouths of these
Dumb, pale and meek
We have to infuse the language of the soul,
Into the hearts of these
Weary and worn, dry and forlorn,
We have to minstrel the language of humanity.
–Rabindra Nath Tagore, ‘Kadi and Komal’

The kol tribals are broken in body, and almost in spirit. Their back-breaking toil in the silica stone (minor mineral) and sand (major mineral) quarries in the hard, rocky terrain of Shankargarh, 50 kms from Allahabad, barely earns them two square meals a day. The contractors, who employ them, keep them starved. Their paltry loans never get repaid. Their women are disgraced. They are robbed of their few belongings. And they dare not leave the contractor, who has trapped them with loans, and work for a better wage, if any.

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