Jharkhand is mineral-rich, but a majority of its people is dirt poor. As in the rest of India where, according to UNICEF, some 28 million children work to supplement their families’ meagre income, 400,000 children aged between five and 14 work in Jharkhand. Given the proximity to mines, many children work in them.
It is dangerous to work in the mines, particularly those that are underground where fatal cave-ins are frequently reported. But their penury leaves the children with few choices. “I know there is danger in this work, but at the end of the day, it is the money that matters,” Kujur said.
State-owned coal companies blamed the government for failing to curb illegal mining. “Inadequate infrastructure of law enforcement agencies offers scope for illegal extraction of coal from the area. We are working according to the Mines and Minerals Act, but it is not possible on our part to curb illegal mining from the area,” said R R Prasad, the public relations officer of BCCL.