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

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Buried under Neglect

India’s latest mining accident yet again points to neglect of basic safety principles.

On the night of 29 December 2016 as the nation’s attention was focused on the approaching deadline to deposit invalid bank notes, 23 workers trapped under debris at the Lalmatia open-cast coal mine in Jharkhand’s Godda district, were struggling for their lives. Eighteen bodies were pulled out the next day and rescue operations were continuing at the time of writing. What is galling is that the director general of mines safety announced that it was not a “complex technical” factor that was responsible but neglect of basic safety principles. Though the work was part of the Rajmahal Opencast Project of Eastern Coalfields which is a subsidiary of the state-owned Coal India Limited (CIL), it had been outsourced to the private Mahalaxmi Company.

This accident, which is by no means unusual in an industry that is considered along with shipbuilding to be the most hazardous, draws attention to a host of serious issues related to mining in India. These include: abysmal safety conditions for workers, outsourcing by public sector companies of work contracts to private companies that are lax in following rules and regulations, environmental degradation, violation of human rights of local residents who are predominantly tribal, hiring of contract labourers from outside the area to circumvent protests by locals, outright corruption in sanctioning projects that exploit the minerals, “illegal” mining that employs a large number of the marginalised, and employment of child labour. A number of reports and documentaries have shown how the tribal populations of these mineral-rich areas and states live in utter poverty, many of them displaced and others in continual fear of displacement even as huge projects bring massive profits to private companies.

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Updated On : 11th Jan, 2017

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