Coal miners see no way up from rock bottom

Coal miners see no way up from rock bottom

Miners at Godavarikhani. DH PHOTO

Coal miners working in the coal belt of Telangana form a formidable vote bank for the political parties in the state.

The Singareni Collieries, which has 48 mines spread across six districts of the undivided Andhra Pradesh, employs over 60,000 people directly.

The union is in the hands of the ruling TRS' affiliate Telangana Boggu Gani karmika Sangham (TBGKS) under the active patronage of Nizamabad MP and daughter of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao K Kavitha.

Huge promises are made for the betterment of the miners' lives by political parties before every elections.

However, no help has been offered and the lives of the miners continue as they are, even as the mining company is shutting down labour-intense underground mines and converting them into open cast mines.

"This incline is set to close soon as this will be converted into an open cast mine," said Narayana at the 5th incline mine here told DH. The miners here say that open cast mines leave a layer of coal particles in the atmosphere affecting the miners' health.

"The TRS and the union that is supporting the party have promised a super specialty hospital for the coal miners here but nothing has worked out so far and we still have to go Hyderabad which is 226 km away," V Satish Kumar, another coal miner at the incline said.

The coal miners at Vithal Nagar colony adjacent to the Open Cast Mine-3 complain that there are vibrations round the clock and cracks have appeared in their houses, which were built by the company five decades ago.

"The government is promising two-bed room houses for the poor. Why don't they give those houses to us?" Satish said.

The coal miners are also demanding interest-free loans to construct homes.

"The TRS government has increased our salaries and we are very happy for that. But our tax deductions are high. We have a cut of Rs 10,000 per month for various taxes which could be used for paying home loans," Sudhakar, a miner, said.

The miners are also demanding jobs for their children on grounds of compassion.

However, the courts have directed the Collieries to provide employment to the dependants of employees who become medically invalid, along with the dependents of those miners who die in accidents.

Those miners who want to pass on their jobs to their children, or even spouses, have to go through a process called "medical invalidation".

"Not many get the medical invalidation by the medical board. Even if I want to quit the job owing to ill health or fatigue, the board is not ready to certify. So, only a miniscule few among our children get jobs," Tirupathi, a miner, said.

The coal miners also point out that soon there will be no permanent jobs in coal mines as the jobs are now filled by contact workers from states such as Bihar and Chhattisgarh.

"The TRS has promised that there will no more contract jobs in Telangana, but it is not true," miner Tandra Kanakayya says.

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