Akhil Bharatiya Samaj Sewa Sansthan

8. Mining

Many parts of this region have vast deposits of minor minerals. Granite, stone chips, stone powder, silica sand and river bank sand are being obtained by indiscriminate mining practices every day in vast quantities. The existing system is such that both the environment and health of workers suffer badly. Workers employed on low wages suffer in large numbers from silicosis, TB, skin diseases and other serious ailments. Most of them lose all strength after a few years' work in these mines and crushers. Many of them die in accidents or even without accidents at a relatively young age. There are many horror stories of workers being maimed or beaten or even killed by mine owners when they protested against their exploitation. On the other hand villagers living near mines complain that their farm land, crops and water-sources are being destroyed by indiscriminate mining, their health too is ruined by exposure to high levels of dust. As some mines go very deep, serious threats of land subsidence, even damage to railway lines and very serious accidents have emerged at some places.

The existing system of operating mines is exactly the opposite of any system of sustainable livelihood. This is nothing but plunder by a few to make as much as possible in the least time. Such a system should change. However a blanket ban on mining as has been imposed in some other regions will cause sudden large-scale unemployment to a large number of workers and this should be avoided.

Instead careful planning should be taken to evolve technologies and processes in which the objectives of non-exploitative employment can be reconciled with the protection of environment. This can take the form of creating cooperatives of workers. A number of mines can be linked to a single crusher. The technology should be such that dust levels and hazards are reduced as much possible. The use of dynamite should be avoided or minimised. More labour intensive methods should be used.

While a ban can be imposed after careful inspection on those mines in which the risk of accident and ecological ruin is unacceptably high or areas of special importance for pilgrims, in other places the effort should be to continue work with emphasis on safety, health, legal wages and environment protection. (See Annexure 4) In areas where a ban on mining at least for some years is unavoidable, care should be taken to employ displaced workers in ecological rehabilitation of the devastated area.

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