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Mining in India: Safety & Other Issues [EPW January 2017]

India’s latest mining accident yet again points to neglect of basic safety principles. A multi-pronged strategy needs to be devised.
By IT's QoM Squade
January 19, 2017
GS (M) Paper-2: “Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.”

 

Issues related to mining in India

Introduction:

Recently, there occurred an accident in coal mining industry in Lalmatia Godda district of Jharkhand in which 23 workers were trapped under the debris.

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This accident drew the attention towards the safety issues in mining industry.

Issues related to mining in India:

  • 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.

Other concerns:

  • 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.
  • The Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act of 1973 took over private sector mines which were accused of neglecting safety procedures. However, safety has not been a priority in the state-owned mines but they seem to have turned a full circle with the outsourcing of jobs to private contractors.
  • Many fatalities and serious accidents also occur during transportation and use of explosives. In such cases, the knowledge of the workers gained by long experience is not given the importance it deserves.
  • In the latest Lalmatia tragedy, workers had complained about cracks in the slope formed by the excavated earth but were told to just continue doing their jobs.
  • It is the compensation part that workers and activists have for long complained about. They say that the process of actually getting the amount whether for an injury or death (given to the kin) on the job is long drawn-out.
  • Since many of these workers are on contract and not eligible for welfare benefits, the compensatory amount is all that they or their families can fall back on.
  • There are reports that CIL’s poor production performance recently will worsen with the accident in the open cast mine.

Human Rights Watch report:

  • The Human Rights Watch report “Out of Control: Mining, Regulatory Failure and Human Rights in India,” published in 2012 looks at iron ore mining in Goa and Karnataka to show “how even mines operating with the approval of government regulators are able to violate the law with complete impunity.”
  • The report adds that a mix of bad policies, weak institutions and corruption, government oversight and ineffectual regulation of the country’s mining industry has resulted in “chaos.”
  • The report details the community harm that iron ore mining activities wreck on local farmers destroying their crops through the environmental degradation and threatening the community with economic and health ruin.

Conclusion:

There is no doubt that the mining sector in India, whether privately operated or state-owned, needs to devise a multi-pronged strategy that encompasses occupational safety along with protection of the rights of local residents and the environment.

[Ref: EPW]

 

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