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Sinlung News - India's coal miners

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Los Angeles Times : “In India coal towns, many miners are children”


Child workers of Meghalaya

70,000 children are currently working in the coal-rich mines of Meghalaya. The figures are according to human rights organisation Impulse who suggests the children are often trafficked from neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal.

Impulse tracking organised child traffickers in state

IMPHAL March 23: A team from the Impulse, an NGO working on child and women rights in the North East States, led by Hashina Kharbih is on a visit to Manipur to take help from the state government in tracking down and booking child traffickers from the state.

The team today interacted with the media persons, in a press conference held at the Manipur Press Club and brief them about the activities they are undertaking during their visit.

While speaking to media persons, team leader Hashina Kharbih, disclosed that most of the children who were brought from the state Manipur and from other North East states were taken to the South Indian states like Karnataka, Kerala etc. with the promise of free education and job placements.

She said recently about 150 children were rescued from Kolkatta, of whom 53 were from Tamenglong. They have since been brought to Manipur but many others were still missing.

She said the ever growing issue of child trafficking in state Manipur is of grave concern and IMPUSLE in collaboration with others like-minded NGOs of the state are working to take up various initiatives to book the traffickers as well as to prevent these crimes from recurring.

The Imphal Free Press

Thousands of Bonded Child Minersin India

Child labour is widespread in South Asia -- in mining and in agriculture
Childlabour is widespread in South Asia -- in mining and in agriculture

A study conducted by the Impulse NGO Network, an independent human rights organisation, has found that there are 70,000 children working asbondedlabourers in private mines in Meghalaya, in India’s northeast. Children are reportedly trafficked from neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal.

If you travel about 90 kilometres away from the city of Shilong in north-easternIndia, you will be stunned by the beauty of the Jaintia hills but as you walk towards the coal mines, you will be hit by a glaring reality. You will seechildminers.

Instead of going to school, young children are sent to work in mines that are known as “rat mines” and where the shafts are little more than crude, narrow holes dug into the hills.

The holes are so small that any adult would find it difficult to enter them and extract coal. Hasina Kharbhih is the team leader of the Impulse NGO Network, which has brought out a report about the gruesome conditions the children are exposed to.

“They normally use a small kind of a cart with four little wheels tied with a rope outside. The children sit there and go into the rat holes to dig the coal,” says Kahrbhih.

Meghalaya’s vast coal reserves are private

The state of Meghalaya has some 550 million tons of coal reserves, which is also the state’s biggest source of revenues. However, the state government has no direct control of this black gold industry, which is privately owned.

Arindam Som, the Commissioner Secretary of the Meghalaya Mining and Geology Department, explains that “mining has been going on for the past 40 or 50 years even though mining leases have not been given. Mining is totally carried out by private people and the government of Meghalaya does not play a role.”

Activists say that in the absence of government interference the influx of children workers from the neighbouring countries continues.

International borders are very porous, enablingchildtrafficking

Hasina deplores the fact that the international borders are not strictly controlled: “The mines in Meghalaya normally get their regular supply of labourers from Bangladesh and Nepal. These children come with migrant labourers to be put in forbondedlabour. Although border security forces are there in the border but this has never been looked into very seriously."

But Som, a civil servant, says it is important not to exaggerate: “You cannot say that they are being brought because there is a porous border with Meghalaya. For historical reasons, the movement cannot be controlled although there are regulatory measures. There is nothing calledchildslavery but there ischildlabour and the government is trying to create awareness."

According to official statistics, 21.6 million children aged between five and 14 out of a total of 300 million are victims ofchildlabour in South Asia. Experts say that it is high time that the governments ofIndia, Bangladesh and Nepal looked for ways of replacing the pick axe with a pen in the hands of the children.

Author: Debarati Mukherjee
Editor: Thomas Bärthlein

Deutsche Welle, Germany




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