COAL MINING IN EASTERN INDIA { 20 images } Created 26 Feb 2013

The Indian state of Jharkhand boasts huge mineral deposits, including coal. Yet, as I discovered while photographing this story, it is home to some of the poorest people in India. As mining companies have moved in, so indigenous Adivasi communities have been forced from their land. Despite their sacrifice, these people remain marginalised and poor. Few of them find jobs in the big mines. And with few alternative employment opportunities, many eke out a living by scavenging coal from the edges of mines.

According to the Indian finance ministry, “High growth is critical to generate the revenues needed for meeting our social welfare objectives.” But there is little sign of investment in the people of Jharkhand where annual per capita income is just US$330 and75% of indigenous Adivasi women remain illiterate.

Local communities understand that mineral exploitation provides them no benefit and struggle to keep coal mining companies and thermal power plants from their land. Resistance groups like Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee would sooner face imprisonment than capitulate to myths about development. They have seen their mineral wealth shipped out to benefit others. And they understand better than anyone else that local communities must in future be at the forefront of the decision making process if they are ever to challenge the powerful interests that exploit Jharkhand’s wealth and continue to deny human rights to those who are being forced from their land.
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