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

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Mining into a Death Trap

Recurring deaths in mining holes and manholes put claims of inclusive development at stake.


The tragic death of mineworkers in the ratholes of Meghalaya should put to shame the proponents of the slogan “sabka saath, sabka vikas.” In the skewed process of development, certain sections are trapped in jobs that endanger their own lives, as they enter these rathole mines to dig out the “wealth” or enter manholes to clear out the “filth,” for sustenance.

Rathole mining is illegal coal mining practised in Meghalaya, mostly in the East Jaintia Hills. Pits of depths up to 100 metres and more, with rickety bamboo ladders, lead to tunnels resembling ratholes, dug sideways to reach the coal beds. It is mostly migrants from Nepal, Bangladesh and Assam, and the most vulnerable amongst the locals who choose this dangerous crawling work in wet pits. Children as young as nine and below, and boys/men short in height are found to be suited for the underground work. They enter with shovels and torches tied to their heads to chip away coal with pickaxes, hauling it away in baskets or a wheelbarrow, and working for long stretches.

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Updated On : 29th Jan, 2019
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